COMMENTARY: Christmas – Christianity’s Gift to the World.

Though I am Jewish, I have always loved Christmas and what is commonly called the Christmas Spirit. Of course, I don’t mean the crassly commercialized version of the Christmas Spirit that stresses consumerism, but the spirit of love, forgiveness, family, friendship and — remember this phrase? — “Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Men.” To those who celebrate Christmas, I hope you have an exceptionally joyful and meaningful holiday. To those who don’t, I hope you will shamelessly bask in and enjoy the warm  light and good will generated by those who understand and live an authentic Christmas message.

My fondness and reverence for Christmas includes, but goes beyond, recognition of its enormous religious significance. I view Christmas as the gift of Christians to the world – a day dedicated to transcendent values like love, compassion, and charity, as both moral obligations and a source of joy. In 1905, Henry Van Dyke wrote a poem called “Keeping Christmas” that captures the essence of Christmas spirit:

Are you willing to forget what you have done for others and remember what others have done for you;

to ignore what the world owes you, and to think about what you owe the world;

to see your fellowmen as real and to look behind their faces to their hearts;

to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness –

 Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and the desires of little children;

to remember the weakness and the loneliness of people who are growing old;

to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough;

to try to understand what those who live in the same house with you really want, without you waiting for them to tell you;

to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open;

Are you willing to believe that Love is the strongest thing in the world – stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death?

 Are you willing to do all this even for a day?

Then you can Keep Christmas.

 And if you keep it for a day, why not always?

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