Wednesday, December 19, 2012
What is the true meaning of Christmas? Well it depends on what you believe about the reality of the world we live in. If you are a Christian, you believe that God provided a way for people to be forgiven for the sins of Adam and Eve as well as their own sins. That way is by sending one part of the Trinity which is God, the Son part, to live the life of a Man and then die prematurely and painfully, to pay for the sins of everyone who chooses to believe in Him. That man was Jesus Christ and the Church has a special Mass on December 25th to celebrate His birth.
Since God gave this gift to all of us in the form of the life and death of Jesus, Christians at some point decided to give gifts to each other, in remembrance and emulation of God's gift to us. In the course of giving out these gifts, we visit with our families and friends. Even those who are not religious can appreciate the fellowship of sharing a meal and pleasant times with loved ones.
Along with the shopping and gatherings of season comes Christmas music. There are two songs in particular that can provide inspiration in our lives. Read on as I tell you my thoughts on two Christmas favorites - The Little Drummer Boy, and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer.
People came to where Jesus had just been born with gifts for this newborn "King". One young boy was there and saw what was happening. He wanted to give a gift too, but he was poor and had no money. However, he did have a skill. He was a pretty good drummer!
Now some may say that he was given this skill by God. Some think that God decides if and when to give a mother a child, and has a reason for bringing that child into the world, and has a plan for that child's life. If that is the case, then God put us here for a reason, gave us skills for a reason, and it is good to develop our God given skills and use them in service according to God's will.
Others may think that the drummer boy inherited certain skills from his parents by way of the genetic code he received random parts of, from each parent. But still, the child owes it to society to develop their skills for the good of society, because it was society that allowed that child to get to where he presently finds himself. Human animals need contact and care from other humans, or else they die. We are born helpless and we can do nothing on our own to survive for an initial period of time, and it takes us a long time to be able to live independently. By that time, we owe a large debt to society. Our parents and family members fed, clothed and cared for us. Society provided a framework and system of providing food, clothing and all kinds of goods and services for the people of the world. We make a lot of choices and efforts on our own but we also have a lot of infrastructure in place for us. It is good to contribute to society since we have already received so much from it.
In either interpretation, it seems to me that we have an obligation to develop our skills and use them in celebration of what we have received in this life. The Little Drummer Boy presents the baby Jesus with a performance of the thing he knows how to do, play his drum. What is something you are good at? How will you develop that ability even further? Will you use your skills as a thankful gift to what made you who you are, as the Litte Drummer Boy did?
Sometimes it is not so obvious as to what our skills are. Everyone is unique, no two people are exactly alike. We have a set of characteristics that make us who we are. As we live and interact with others, we come to think of some of our traits as assets and others as detriments. We discover certain things we are able to do that bring pleasure and utility to ourselves and others. But we also find that we have certain characteristics that are perceived by others as a weakness or a strangeness.
As we all know, there seems to be something in human nature that instinctively leads us to judge the fitness of our fellow associates. Perhaps by finding their faults and weaknesses, it helps us to feel relatively superior. Further, we seem to identify who will help us in our lives and who will be a drain on our resources. In nature, we see animals making the decision to sometimes abandon the weakest of their young when resources are scarce, or leave behind a group member who is too old or infirm to be useful to the pack. But humans are different from other animals. We can use our imagination to devise new ways of using our skills and characteristics that might not at first seem obvious. We can think about something that at first seems like a weakness or hindrance and discover the hidden utility of this trait.
In Rudolf, we have a tale that shows how this very concept played out. We can identify, because we see that sometimes we have something that is not generally considered useful or worthy of having. It may be that this skill or attribute is only an advantage in certain rare situations. But when that situation arises, we are glad to have it, and so are all our associates! While they may have once shunned us for being different, they now idolize us for this unique thing which all of a sudden has been shown to be very important! Rudolf used his strangely glowing nose to light the way through the storm. What is your unique talent or characteristic? How will you show others that your difference is something to be celebrated? Will you take a moment to praise someone for something they might not even realize they have, like Santa did for Rudolf?
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