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Sunday, November 30, 2014


When we celebrate Christmas we think of the exchanging of gifts which many times entails the mad rush of people in stores to purchase gifts for those they care about. In addition we think of Christmas time as being a season of joy, of peace, and of love; when Christmas Day arrives, children arise early to rush to the Christmas tree bedecked with beautiful ornaments and lit with scores of lights intertwined among the branches, in order to open the packages from their parents, relatives and Santa Claus with expressions of glee that can only be evoked by children. In a Christian family, the parents and children may attend religious services to  celebrate the birth of a baby named Jesus in a manger 2000 years ago. In a non-Christian family, just as in the Christian family, a Christmas party involving the celebration of friends and family with the exchanging of gifts is of great importance.

Many times, after Christmas has passed, there is a mix of feelings ranging from great satisfaction in having a successful Christmas celebration to a feeling that all the effort put into having a great celebration has been tiring and now it’s time to get on with other things that are of everyday concern and importance. In other words to some people Christmas is simply a time for celebration of family and friends and not much thought of a deeper nature is given the experience.  For some, Christmas Is a time of sadness and pain because of dark thoughts of loss of friends, family or desires not accomplished that cannot be compensated for by some great party of celebrants full of laughter while having a jolly time. It is said that not just a few commit suicide during this time because of the sadness in their hearts and minds.

Having a perspective on the true meaning and importance of Christmas can be a help in making the experience of celebrating Christmas more beneficial to those wanting a good experience of Christmas.

A good place to start is in the beginning, with the Genesis account in the Old Testament of the failure of the first man and woman God created to perfectly fulfill the plan God established for them. Adam and Eve were put out of a garden of paradise into our world of suffering and pain because of this; But God promised them a Savior who would restore them and all their descendants for all time to God's favor lost by their failure.

That Savior is Jesus Christ who was born just over 2000 years ago in Bethlehem of Judea; this is the first Christmas, the birth of Jesus, the son of God, whose mission was to sacrifice his life on a cross to restore man's favor with God lost by Adam and Eve. Jesus, through his perfect sacrifice is known as the second Adam, because he fulfilled the plan which Adam and Eve did not.

So the real meaning of Christmas is the joyous celebration of the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ. We celebrate his birth given by his mother, the virgin Mary, who was greatly graced by God, in the humble circumstances of a Manger surrounded by the various animals located there. He is visited by shepherds in the field who had been invited to see the newborn babe by a chorus of angels. He is also visited by the Magi, three Kings who had followed a star which led them to the babe in the manger.

Christmas is a time of great hope, that through our love and honor of God, we will share in his plan of peace and fulfillment during our time on earth and afterwards an eternal paradise of no more pain and suffering, but rather an eternal bliss wrapped in the love of God.

Friday, November 28, 2014

A History of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is an American holiday.  The original Thanksgiving was held in 1621 when immigrants called pilgrims came to America on the sailing ship Mayflower to escape religious intolerance in first England and then in Holland. They came to America to start a new home where they would be free to practice their religion without such intolerance. They settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts and with help from the native Indians who showed them how to grow corn and other crops successfully, the pilgrims had a successful harvest.  They wanted to give thanks to God in prayer around a table with all kinds of delicious foods; they invited the Indians to share in their feast. The first Thanksgiving then in America was a Thanksgiving of prayer to God for a successful harvest while enjoying a Thanksgiving banquet.

However Thanksgiving was not established as a yearly affair after the original Thanksgiving. Through the years there would be occasional Thanksgivings of prayer along with a feast. In 1777 George Washington called for a day in December of that year to be an occasion of thanksgiving to God in prayer for the recent victories in the American Revolution, in particular the success of the Battle of Saratoga against the British who were trying to divide the colonies. It was that battle which brought the French into the war against England on the side of the Americans.

It was not until 1846 that Sarah Hale, a 19th century writer who was the author of “Mary had a Little Lamb”, wrote letters to successive presidents of the United States petitioning for the last Thursday of November to be a day of Thanksgiving each and every year. It was not until 1863 that Abraham Lincoln, responding to Sarah Hale’s petition, established the last Thursday of November of every year to be a day of Thanksgiving. Thus began the holiday of Thanksgiving as we know it today to be a day  concentrated on the expression of thanks through the feast of good food on the table surrounded by family and friends while the expression of thanks to God through prayer was not included.

In 1939 President Franklin Roosevelt decided to change the date in November for Thanksgiving to a week before the last Thursday in November so as to lengthen the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to better serve the retail market and thus improve the economy. As a result, Thanksgiving as well as Christmas became secular holidays which marked the beginning and the end of a shopping season for people to purchase gifts and food for these festive holidays.

However this change in the day in November for Thanksgiving caused confusion because many states refused to comply with the new Thanksgiving date and stuck with the last Thursday in November as being the proper date for Thanksgiving. Happily Congress came to the rescue and in 1941 established the 4th Thursday of November as the one all states would adhere to for Thanksgiving from then on.