Thursday 21st December, 2006

Leela Ramdeen
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Preparing for Christmas

Christ came to teach a gospel of love. Those of us who are his followers have a duty to reject the culture of death that is so prevalent today and to promote a culture of life, love, joy and peace.

It’s a sign of the times that many people seem to have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas.

A few days ago as I was driving to Port-of-Spain, I heard a radio talk show host ask his colleague what is the first thing that he thinks of when he thinks of Christmas. Without hesitation his colleague answered: “My Christmas bonus!”

I decided to ask 50 people the same question. I selected people randomly in various parts of T&T. I did not seek information about their religious persuasion. I assume that among the 50 there were people from various religious backgrounds.

I was surprised to discover that only eight of the 50 people I approached think of the birth of Christ or attending church services when they think about Christmas.

Other answers included: parang, sorrel, ginger beer, ham, turkey, shopping, cooking/baking, cleaning house/painting/decorating, receiving presents, school holidays, time off from work, partying, visiting or welcoming relatives, travelling abroad.

Recently I read about a survey conducted by the Daily Mail newspaper in the UK. This newspaper surveyed 5,500 cards on sale in High Street stores in the UK and found only 67 with pictures of the Bible story. Sadly, the report states that:

“Religious images have been banished from almost all the Christmas cards on sale in High Street shops. Traditional Nativity pictures such as angels over a stable, Jesus in his manger and the three wise men appear on only one in 100 cards surveyed by the Daily Mail.

“These images have been replaced by a bizarre selection including brussel sprouts, a shoe, a moonlight bridge and a line of meercats. One card even carried the potentially offensive suggestion that shepherds saw an angel appear only because they had been smoking drugs.

“Religious groups and members of Parliament were horrified. They feared the multi-million pound industry was shunning religious images because of political correctness and the fear of offending other faiths. There were calls for a boycott to force manufacturers to restore the true meaning of Christmas...

“The Royal Mail has also faced criticism for axing the Bible story from its festive stamps.”

This is the tip of the iceberg. The report highlights the fact that in Britain “many primary schools and nurseries have replaced the traditional Nativity plays with something more secular and in these plays not a single angel, innkeeper or Baby Jesus grace the stage. And instead of the heart-warming rendition of Christmas carols, the children were singing jingle bells.”

In the US the “war on Christmas”continues apace. You will have read in our local media about the fiasco regarding the nine fully decorated Christmas/“holiday” trees at the international terminal at Seattle-Tacoma Airport.

And then there is the remake of the 1974 horror movie, Black Christmas, which will be released on Christmas Day in the US. Complaints by religious groups fall on deaf ears. As Matthew Staver of Liberty Counsel says:

“To have a movie that emphasises murder and mayhem at Christmas, a time of celebration and joy around the world, seems to be ill-founded.”

Christ came to teach a gospel of love. Those of us who are his followers have a duty to reject the culture of death that is so prevalent today and to promote a culture of life, love, joy and peace.

As we approach the fourth Sunday of Advent which falls on Christmas Eve, let us reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. During Advent we wait with joyful expectation for the commemoration of the birth of Christ, the Son of God, who came to Earth in human form to give us eternal life.

During Advent we prepare ourselves for this great event through, eg, prayer, meditation, penance, personal renewal, enhancing our spiritual development. Let us offer praise and thanksgiving to God for his unfailing love for us which He demonstrated by sending His only Son to redeem us.

Recently I spoke to my great niece, Cherisse, who is six years old and who lives in London. She had told me previously that she was shining some of her semi-precious stones which she collects so that she could wrap them and leave them for Jesus under her Christmas tree.

Cherisse has now changed her mind. Since she is sure that Jesus has enough semi-precious stones, she has decided to give Jesus her heart instead. She added that she was trying not to fight with her younger brother, N’Kai, so that her heart will be “good” for Jesus at Christmas!

The innocence of six-year-old Cherisse sends a clear message to us. During Advent we should be working hard to “shine” our hearts so that we can give them to Jesus—not only at Christmas but each day of our lives.

If we want our hearts to be “good” for Jesus at Christmas, then we must remember our identity as children of God and try to get right our relationship with God and with each other.

Following my article last week on “Dealing with grief,” I received many e-mails from individuals who found it a source of comfort in their time of grief. I promised to share a few stanzas from the poem “My First Christmas in Heaven,” sent to me by Y Khan:

“I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below. With tiny lights, like Heaven’s stars, reflecting on the snow. The sight is so spectacular, please wipe away that tear. For I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year...

“I know how much you miss me, I see the pain inside your heart. But I am not so far away, we really are not apart. So be happy for me dear ones, you know I hold you dear. And be glad I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

“I send you each a special gift from my heavenly home above. I send you each a memory of my undying love. After all ‘love’ is the gift, more precious that gold. It was always more important in the stories Jesus told.

“Please love and keep each other, as my Father said to do. For I can’t count the blessing or love He has for you. So, have a merry Christmas, and wipe away that tear. Remember I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year” (by Wanda Bencke).

Let us awaken the true spirit of Christmas in our lives and be generous to those in need. Wishing you a blessed and peaceful Christmas.

n Leela Ramdeen is a lawyer

and education consultant











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