authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6)
Daily Scripture Reading: Isaiah 9:2-7
Every year during Advent, I have the same familiar experience, one shared by anyone who goes out shopping. I enter a store and select my products and while going through the checkout line, and paying for my things, it happens. When the cashier hands me my receipt and/or my the change, they'll say "Happy holidays," or perhaps even "Merry Christmas."
I realize the cashier's greeting might not be given out of genuine interest in whether or not I enjoy Christmas. Chances they are only following company policy and have little other options but to comply. I imagine somewhere there is a memo from corporate headquarters directing cashiers when to switch from "Have a nice day" to "Happy Holidays," on the assumption that this will somehow help cement a lasting bond between the store and the customer and build loyalty to the store.
I'm aware of all that, and suspicious of the whole business. Then the moment comes at least once, when a cashier looks me in the eye and says "Merry Christmas," and you know immediately they really mean it. And it changes your whole day, you have a momentary experience of joy.
There really is something genuine to this whole idea of Christmas cheer. As Dec. 25th draws near, people warm up just a bit. If you're out and around on Christmas Eve, you'll notice that people are kinder and gentler than on any other day of the year.
People begin to warm up when they are mindful of the Christ child's birth, and make an extra effort to practice the virtues the angels sing of "peace on earth, goodwill towards men."
Why does this surge in warmheartedness stand out? Unfortunately, for many joy has become a seasonal event rather than a standing policy. I remember the movie, “Scrooged.” Bill Murray playing the lead role at the conclusion of the movie after he has been visited by the three ghosts, gives a speech. He reminds us that Christmas provides us the moment, if only briefly to become the people we want to be. Each Christmas, we all for a short time attempt to try just a little harder and for just a little longer, when we share the greeting, “Merry Christmas!”
When Christ entered our world, Jesus didn't come to brighten our Decembers, but to transform our lives. It is challenging to do the hard work to practice good will towards one another year round, but this is what Jesus is calling to practice daily. Jesus came as Isaiah tells us, to become our “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6) We are not alone in doing the hard work of bring joy to this world of ours.
The Gospel accounts of Jesus' ministry provide the blueprint for loving our neighbor in a busy and complicated neighborhood. Christ made a point of seeking out the broken and disenfranchised people of his day - the lepers, prostitutes and tax collectors - and he saw the value in each one of them. And in so doing, He helped them recognize the value in themselves. If Jesus can do it for the most alienated of our world, we at least can start with the everyday, common people of our neighborhoods.
This Christmas season, let us recognize that just as faith is a decision, good will towards people is a series of decisions that work themselves out not in temporary holiday cheer, but in the details of everyday life.