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Gary Horton: The enduring message of Christmas

Posted: December 25, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 25, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Another Christmas.

The older I get, the faster time flies. I long for those early years of life, when I was 6 or 7, and a summer was forever and a year like eternity.

We waited, and waited for Christmas to come. And when it finally arrived it was such an event.

Today, Halloween seems like a week ago and Thanksgiving, yesterday. It’s all such a blur.

Yet through our lives Christmas still remains a constant touchstone — and a milestone. As our son, with all the wisdom of a 5-year-old, once said while putting away the lights and the tree, “Christmas is over. But it’s coming back.”

Indeed, Christmas returns every year, and nowadays it seems with ever-increasing materialism.

Santa has surely surpassed Jesus as “the reason for the season.” Those doubting America is a secular country might check the heft of Christmas sale ads stuffed in their mailboxes.

“As you think in your hearts, so you become.” “Buying stuff” has become our communion while “Xmas” is materialism’s High Holy Day. After all, those aren’t Bibles stacked under our trees.

Yet beyond the materialistic orgy it’s since become, Christmas still remains the time when Christians, in fact, celebrate the birth of Christ as the arrival of the human manifestation of God to all mankind.

Each year we see the same recurring Christmas plays and displays with the same recurring imagery. There’s an easy take-away all can understand:

As if to teach humanity humility, Jesus was born in a barn, surrounded by farm animals, to poor teenage parents taking refuge from an exhausting journey.

Jesus grew to love the little children and the old and the sick. The man born poor especially urged us to serve the poor and needy.

Christians are taught to “Look to Jesus to see God.” It’s interesting that in our day, Jesus’ physical appearance and circumstance might look most like that of an immigrant worker, earning a hard living pounding nails, building the houses we comfortably live in.

Dark-skinned, outcast, sweaty, dusty, and poor. Odd that politicians waving crosses so often look at such faces with disregard.

Jesus said, “The poor will always be with you,” and he wasn’t kidding on that count. We’ve got plenty of poor in America, and with our increasing disparity of wealth, we have more coming.

With so many politicians slavishly devoted to austerity over empathy, if we’re going to fulfill Jesus’ message of service we’re going to have to do it ourselves.

So it’s happy that the SCV is chock-full of folks living the message of service:

Every Sunday I see an elderly couple collecting a shopping cart full of breads from our local Ralphs.

I once asked them, “What are you doing with all that?”

“We collect it for a community food pantry,” they responded.

There’s a retired man at our church who faithfully drives down to the Los Angeles Men’s Prison every other week to provide counseling services to inmates. He’s done it for years and his motivation is simply to help in a most useful way to those who are so disempowered.

A group of local men get together and sign up with Habitat for Humanity and build houses in Guatemala every year. It takes a week of their time and they pay their own expenses, but each year they go and help some of the world’s most impoverished people.

Citizens from all of the SCV join together every year to manage the Bridge To Home SCV homeless shelter.

Hundreds donate time, food and material to help those who are, indeed, the most vulnerable among us.

A piano teacher and her students put on musical presentations every quarter at one of the SCV’s senior living facilities. A small gesture that brings joy and human contact to many who are otherwise shut in from much of what had been vibrant lives.

This list of compassionate service could fill this paper — and maybe one day The Signal should run it.

Meanwhile, our town and all of America is much more diverse than back when I was young. For many Americans, Christmas holds no special meaning.

Still, beyond all the sales and shopping and stuff and stress, there remains a clear message that the season benefits all. Humility, love and service toward those in need.

We can unite in this, and surely be a better people and nation when we do.

Merry Christmas to all. Another Christmas come, and tomorrow gone again — but not necessarily forgotten.

The message and spirit endure all year as we honor “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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