The presents are unwrapped, the feast is over . . .

But what did it all mean to you — if you celebrated Christmas?

In the weeks leading up to Christmas this year, I was struck by how newspaper columnists justifiably lamenting the pandemic ban on family get-togethers said little else about what Christmas meant to them. Christmas to them, it seemed, was mostly about shopping, presents and feasting with their extended families.

Not one writer I read lamented the fact that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day church services were out of the question this year. No one lamented that school choirs wouldn’t be singing Christmas carols and that students couldn’t recreate the manger scene in school plays.

The manger scene?

Remember the baby Jesus?

I didn’t see his name mentioned once.

Which got me to thinking that much of the Christmas spirit has been lost, though that is hardly a surprise. It has been a commercial, materialistic holiday for a long time now.

Of course, some would question the purported religious significance of Christmas, anyhow. It’s really about the winter solstice, they might point out, and the journey of the sun. Religion translated “sun” to the “son” of God, and sometime later Saint Nick was woven into the myth.

But for some there is an underlying theme no matter what the celebration: quite simply put, it is a time to celebrate and embrace the golden rule.

As acclaimed actor/director Rob Reiner put it today in a tweet:

That, of course, was the underlying message Charles Dickens was trying to impart in his tale A Christmas Carol (a.k.a. Scrooge).

As Ingrid Van Mater wrote in her review of a film version of the story:

From: Mankind Is Our Business, by Ingrid Van Mater:

One of the most moving statements in (Dickens’s A Christmas Carol) is by Marley’s Ghost when despairing over “life’s opportunities misused.” Scrooge, trembling with fear and beginning to share in Marley’s guilt, says: “But you were always a good man of business, Jacob.” Upon which the Ghost cried out in anguish:

“Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

These words stand as an eloquent expression of our grand human purpose, suggesting that it is our inner thoughts and feelings, our motives, our priorities, which contribute to making our lives an emptiness or a fullness. What we are in our whole being is so much grander than anything we can measure by surface values. In Goethe’s words, “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.” The “comprehensive ocean” brings to mind the vast spiritual resources in ourselves, that ocean of truth within, that we are just beginning to discover. From this standpoint our routine activities in themselves are but a “drop of water” compared to our total duty or “business” as innately caring and responsible human beings.
— Ingrid Van Mater

That to me is the true meaning of Christmas. Sure, the feast and the presents are fun, but they are all about self-indulgence. The true spirit of Christmas is about reaffirming what we should be giving to the world 24/7. No shopping required.

So, what does it all mean to you today?

And in the spirit of Rob and Ingrid and Marley and Scrooge and the beloved Charles Dickens, I wish you all a Merry Christmas!

— Jillian