What does it mean to say Merry Christmas?
by Osmer Harris
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My days off are split but I am learning to live with it. I suppose that means no overnight trips into the desert to view the night sky, something I have not seen in over thirty years. But it would be good to have some recovery time for the feet. Oh well. I try to get as many things done in my one as possible, like laundry and early morning bible study. It is about the only day that I have time to sit at the keyboard and input based upon my previous thoughts I have written in my notepad.
The day starts with another deadly tragedy, but after praying for the survivors and their families, life goes on.
Sitting at lunch we watched a man walk by the window. He was a little bent over but I attributed that to his age. The oddity to me was that he was carrying a small boom box on a day that looked like it would begin to rain hard at any minute.
The man disappeared out of our view momentarily as we discussed whether it was safe for people like that to be out on the streets. Don't get me wrong, it never crossed my mind that he was an ax murderer, but I happen to know that there is a group home near by, and for years we have had dealings with one of these men. He hits you up for coffee or a cigarette. Having had one of these “homes” in the neighborhood, we befriended a young man who lived there, and he went to the same church as us. He told us that the owners of the house, take almost all of their disability check and feed them simple meals like mac and cheese. The owners of the house near us apparently have made a good deal of money from this and bought another home down the street when house prices were sky-high and the banks were making bad loans to people. I am not keen on people taking such horrid advantage of people who have so few options. Our friend from the home had been adopted by Jehovah's witness family. His mother had taken drugs while she was pregnant, and he was the unwanted result. Apparently the JW family rejected him as well, even more so when he became a born-again Christian. They threw him out like trash and have nothing to do with him.
Back to the restaurant. The man who disappeared out of our view now returned and started coming toward the sandwich shop we were sitting in. Not a problem except for the eight inch silver strand of drool hanging from a lower lip that never closed. It reminded me of a Saint Bernard dog and the strand would break and flip off every few steps.
He walked right into the sandwich and said high to the owner and manager, addressing both by name. I kept thinking they would offer him a napkin, but no, they merely shook his extended hand and responded back in kind. I thought they were very kind to him and wondered if they would let him have a sandwich (maybe they do this for him on a regular basis, don't know.)
Now he is approaching our table and all I can see is this drool that is fortunately now only about four inches long. He sticks out his hand to both of us and we shook it. I have to tell that the war going on my head was huge at this point. To make this more poignant, we sat in church one day and listened to a young lady, that was part of the church staff, give her testimony about a recent missionary trip that she went on with the church. All I remember is how disgusted and appalled she was that “these kids wanted to touch my hair. You have to understand, my hair means everything to me, and they have lice and their hands were dirty.” I could not understand why someone did not immediately escort her off the stage. She should have never gone on this trip, and having such an attachment to hair I would suggest to her that she shave her head next time she thinks to share some form of good news about Jesus Christ to people who might see her hair as different and want to touch it.
So with Mr. Silver thread, I had to make a fast decision; one of those, what would Jesus have done moments and I shook his hand. I know people who would not!
I do not believe that I deserve any pats on the back for doing that. I know what I was thinking; I was disgusted, but he was a human, not even aware of his drool, and needed to be acknowledged.
Now the critical moment arises. He wished us a Merry Christmas. Wow, no big deal I suppose, People say that all the time, but this guy pauses for moment after saying it and says, “what does Merry Christmas mean?”
He caught me off guard. I have never been good at evangelism. In fact I hate it, but I love sharing Jesus with anyone who will listen. That is why, if you ask me something about my Lord I will not be timid about the way I speak back to you. I expect that God set moments like this up and quite possibly intended for the person in the next table to hear it. He (God) will hold them responsible for what they hear and do nothing about.
We tried to answer him, but almost everything we said was met with “what does that mean?”
Think about the question: “what does Merry Christmas mean?” It seems simple enough doesn't, but put yourself in an uncomfortable situation and try to come up some slick answer. I have thought about it a little since then.
Webster's dictionary uses words like jovial; and exhilarated to laughter just to begin with. But that is not helping me, and it certainly would not have helped him. Webster's continues: Causing laughter or mirth. I was raised in church and laughter though not banned was deemed more appropriate at the church picnic, not in a place of worship. So those coming out of a religious background may not comprehend such a thing. The dictionary also uses terms such as: pleasant; agreeable, and delightful as defining words for merry.
So when applied to Christmas then people are wishing us a time or something more, though they are not aware of it. Christ could and should bring laughter, but not merely because of some drunken office party. And it would be a benefit to be pleasant, but that seems to be the opposite of the stress I see exhibiting itself. And what is it that you take delight in?
Two words really. Let's consider this one at a time.
As I ponder what Christ did for me, coming into this world a baby. Born of a virgin (to the Catholics an immaculate conception), a miracle in itself. In essence we are acknowledging and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, but it is not just a birth we celebrate, it is all he has done for us by coming, dying, rising again, and leaving us with the promise of his return. Why? So that I could have life; a life most refuse to understand.
As I look for origins of the word Christmas I found Wikipedia which indicates what I suspected. Mass is basically a Latin term meaning worship. Coming from a Protestant background worship tends to take on a meaning of communication, often through music. I can tell you what it does to me. It seems to open a channel of communication where I am receptive to his voice. Some of my most precious times have been as a result of times I have spent in worship. Worship, of course, involves so many other things. The church will tell you that even your giving of offering is an act of worship, as is your service. That would be great if it opened channels of communication between you and God.
I think I would be safe in saying that to have a Merry Christmas is asking them to worship Jesus Christ in a life changing way, one that brings joy, laughter, and a pleasant feeling. Having a relationship with Jesus is supposed to give me a comfort in knowing that there is a hope of life with him. Honestly without that I am not sure what we are selling.
I study a lot. Not because I want to beat people up with my tremendous brain power and usage of big words, but because I struggled to understand this stuff I am sharing with you. I am convinced that those who are willing to spend the time getting to know my Jesus through his word, will find this peace.
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