What does Christmas mean to you?
It’s a question that will probably get a different answer from every person you ask. Every family has their own traditions and customs that make Christmas unique to them.
Of course, certain things about Christmas are universal. For every Christian, Christmas is a time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. He literally is the reason for the season; the “Christ” in “Christmas.”
But even many who aren’t Christians still celebrate Christmas and embrace its values.
One of the most important values of Christmas is giving. We give gifts to our children and those we love, but we also give to those less fortunate than us. We give because Christ gave to us, and was, himself, the greatest gift God ever gave us.
Christmas is the season of joy, hope, peace and love, because those – and much more – are the gifts Christ gave to us. And regardless of whether you are a Christian, most of us still find time and ways to give to others as we all embrace the joy, hope, peace and love of the season.
Some people can’t give money, gifts or food at this time of year. Instead, they give their time and love by volunteering at nursing homes or visiting those who are shut in. Gifts like this are every bit as important as any material gift we may give. As I have gotten older, I have found that the things I enjoy most about Christmas aren’t giving and opening presents with family, but the time we spend with each other.
I would rather sit around the dinner table with all my family and enjoy a nice Christmas dinner than sit around the tree opening presents. I get the most joy at Christmas time from visiting with people, whether it’s the people I love or someone I’ve never met but is alone during the holidays.
In a world where people are increasingly becoming disconnected through social media and technology, Christmas still brings us together. People visit family. They attend religious services. They go out shopping. Some donate their time with local charities or church ministries.
Christmas is a time when we connect with one another, put aside our differences, and remember the blessings we have received.
One of my favorite moments in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is when Bob Cratchit says of Tiny Tim, “He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”
For me, that quote represents what Christmas is all about. In one sentence, we are reminded of both the blessings we have (such as our own good health) and whom Christmas is really all about – a savior who healed the sick and saved our souls.
I hope that as we celebrate Christmas this week, we all remember what the season is all about. I wish you all many wonderful moments with your families and friends, and hope you will find time to visit with those who have no family or cannot be with their loved ones this year.
From my family to yours, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden and the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives.