Today is more than just a holiday. Or even a season.
Christmas is a way of life. It threads the years.
Alexander Smith, a Scottish poet, called it the day that holds all time together.
Christmas is folks with elf caps on their heads and reindeer antlers on their cars. It is neighborhood carolers singing under porch lights. It is cards in the mail from old friends and packages left by the front door.
Christmas is a musical scale from Handels Messiah to Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, from Tchaikovskys Nutcracker to Duck the Halls by the Robertson family of Duck Dynasty. It is Joy to the World and The First Noel.
Christmas is sentimental movies, the ones we watch every holiday with the same joy. (Dont forget A Christmas Story will be playing nonstop on TBS on Christmas.) The end of Home Alone makes us cry the same way George Bailey has us wiping our tears during the final scene of Its a Wonderful Life. It is Charlie Brown and Rudolph with his nose so bright.
Christmas is soft, white lights in living room windows, luminaries at the end of the street and over-the-top, megawatt displays like the Tripp familys home in Empire, Laws Leaping Lights in Warner Robins and the Chick-fil-A on Tom Hill Sr. Boulevard in Macon.
It is Secret Santas, the Reindeer Gang, Toys for Tots and Kids Yule Love. It is Sunday School classes passing the hat to help needy families and feed the hungry. It is the sound of Salvation Army bell ringers and the clink at the bottom of the kettle when someone slips in three quarters, two dimes and six pennies.
Christmas is reading The Polar Express and How the Grinch Stole Christmas to children, hoping they understand the magic and the message, as the Grinch finally does, that Christmas doesnt come from a store. It is re-reading Truman Capotes A Christmas Memory and the part where Buddy and his friend head into the woods with a hatchet to cut down a Christmas tree. It should be twice as tall as a boy, she instructs him, so a boy cant steal the star.
Christmas is department store Santas, nursing home Santas and jolly uncles who suit up once a year for family gatherings. It is long lines at the post office and eggnog at office parties. It is divinity, fruitcake and spiced apple cider. It is kissing someone special under the mistletoe.
Christmas is Nativity figures collected, passed down for generations and displayed on harvest tables. It is Nativity scenes in front yards that glow in the dark. It is living ones in church yards, like the drive-thru Nativity tradition that Riverside United Methodist in Macon started 17 years ago.
Christmas is knowing that, for every Ebenezer Scrooge or Henry F. Potter, there are at least a dozen Santa Clauses. It is parades, like the giant ones in Macon and Warner Robins, with their fancy floats and marching bands, to the annual tiny parade in Bolingbroke, where children pull wagons and ride scooters.
It is sharing Christmases past. Photographs of little ones sitting on St. Nicks knee. The Pink Pig. Christmas plays from long ago and far away. Home movies and videos of children running down the stairs in their pajamas to see what Santa left under the tree and to make sure he ate the milk and cookies they left for him.
Christmas is Jesus, the reason for the season. It is Luke 2. Bethlehem. The manger. Silent night, holy night.
In 1926, a Baptist preacher named James Allen Francis delivered a sermon that would later be called One Solitary Life. It has been widely recited at Christmas for more than eight decades. For Christians, it is the essence of why we celebrate this day.
He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in still another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was 30. Then, for three years, he was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didnt go to college. He never traveled more than 200 miles from the place he was born. He did none of the things one usually associates with greatness. He had no credentials but himself. He was only 33 when public opinion turned against him. His friends deserted him. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. When he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race, the leader of mankinds progress. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on earth as much as that One Solitary Life.