[private] I remember some years ago around Christmas-time browsing through a record store and seeing a musical album entitled “Give Love at Christmas.” I don’t remember who the album was by, but the words stayed engraved in my mind. Yes, for many of us, the significance of Christmas is all about love. The story of the babe born in Bethlehem tells the ultimate love story. We are told that “the true measure of a man is not how great his faith is, but how great his love is.”
Consider the following. In 1873, a Belgian Catholic priest named Joseph Damien De Veuster was sent to minister to lepers on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai. He arrived in high spirits, hoping to build a friendship with each of the lepers. People shunned him, however, at every turn. He built a chapel, began worship services, poured out his heart to the lepers, but all seemed futile. No one responded to his ministry, and after 12 years of struggling Father Damien decided to leave.
As he stood in dejection on the dock waiting to board the ship, he looked down at the hands he was wringing and noticed some mysterious white spots on them. Feeling some numbness, he knew immediately what was happening. He had contracted leprosy. Father Damien returned to the leper colony and to his work. Word spread quickly and within hours, hundreds gathered outside his hut, fully identifying with his plight. An even bigger surprise came the following Sunday. When he arrived at the chapel, he found it full.
Father Damien began to preach from the empathy of love, rather than from the distance of theology and ideas, and his ministry became enormously successful. I believe that those who receive your love today will be much more interested in hearing about your faith tomorrow. First comes love. The Holy Scriptures state in I Corinthians 13:13 (NIV), “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love.” Conversely, people don’t care how much you know unto they know how much you care, or in other words, how much you love.
As a boy growing up in West End during the 1950’s and 1960’s, I recall my late Aunt Iramae saying how Christmas was just another day. However, as it got close to Christmas, she always prepared her very best dishes, put up her favorite curtains and decorations, and made the house spic-and-span.
The greatest change came in her demeanor. Even her exterior softened: she smiled more, appeared more cheerful, and yes, more loving. The euphoric feeling that I get at Christmas-time, especially on Christmas Eve, cannot be duplicated at any other time, no matter how hard I try. The magic of Christmas transforms us, and for at least one day out of the entire year, we become perhaps the person we always wanted to be.
It is said that “when God measures a man, He puts the tape around the heart instead of the head.” So much is made in today’s culture of outward appearance and material possessions. We would do well to remember that it is our virtuous inner qualities that create a lasting reputation. Those who deserve love the least probably need it the most. Bear in mind that the heart is happiest when it beats for others.
During this holiday season, may you receive the spirit of Christmas which is peace, the gladness of Christmas which is hope, and above all, the heart of Christmas which is love. Have a blessed Christmas everyone, and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. [/private]