hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

December 19, 2013

Putting Christ back into Christmas

Tom Vartabedian
The Haverhill Gazette

---- — “Christmas is a tree full of lights

A heart full of joy

A pocket empty of money

And one terrible headache.

It’s a day for being nice to everyone

And wondering why people can’t be

That way the rest of the year.”

After taking the holiday plunge like a lot of other people, I’ve come to an obvious conclusion. What we need most in our lives now is prayer. And there’s no better time to start than now, while we are lamenting our delirium.

Don’t expect a tree full of gifts this Christmas, not my usual allotment of greeting cards with a personalized photo. I’ve been meaning to pare down my list. This is a good time to start.

You know the parties I used to attend with surprise Santas and all. A better alternative this year is to become more sedate in my socializing and spend added time with my family. It’s not only cheaper but more intimate.

The six or seven gifts we used to buy for each grandchild? A better plan this Christmas — out of necessity, I’m afraid — is more like 2 or 3. Far less chaotic Christmas morn and much less expensive.

The more you give, the more they expect.

Instead, let’s all take a different approach this holiday. Instead of running ourselves ragged and nursing our anxiety attacks, a far more logical solution might be Christ and the church.

It only costs a plate offering, whatever you can afford. If it’s a dollar, nobody but God knows the difference and he’s forgiving. Maybe this Christmas, we can all pool our extra resources and support an orphanage somewhere in the world.

A journey to the summit begins with small steps. We could all have a part in the rehabilitation of a world that desperately needs our help. Reaching high keeps us on our toes.

This Christmas, instead of shopping like a demon, become a bit more spiritual by lending a hand to the less fortunate of our community. Money and gifts aside, a better approach might be as a volunteer in some mission house.

Money never did buy happiness and credit cards aren’t doing much better. You know and I know that Christmas has become less a birthday and more a clearance sale. Seek alternate routes for sanity’s sake.

Bake a batch of cookies, but not for yourself. Take them instead to a homeless shelter where they will be better appreciated. Visit a loved one in a nursing home. If you don’t have anyone there, visit someone else, even a total stranger.

The appreciation that might arise is better than anything found inside a colorful package.

This Christmas, make a telephone call to a long lost relative. Arrange a coffee date, a reunion perhaps. Patch an old wound, put aside any personality tiffs, and start a new relationship.

Bring your children to church and teach them how to pray. Have them stand with you at the communion aisle and receive the body of Christ in their warm hearts. Join together in singing a hymn or a carol. Give them a hug.

One of my most memorable Christmases as a child was attending two services with my parents, one inside an Armenian Catholic Church and another in my dad’s American Episcopalian Church.

I considered that a special time in my life. Never a debate about church or religion in my home, never an argument. Much of it has rubbed off on me, being baptized an Armenian Catholic, wed to an Armenian Protestant wife, and both of us now members of an Armenian Apostolic Church.

God touches all bases in our lives and has surely guided us in the right direction. For that, I am thankful.

This Christmas, unlike any other in my life, I shall celebrate it with a new set of morals. A better gift cannot be found in a store.

Count your blessings. It’s better than counting your money these days. Good health and happiness are precious commodities.

On Sunday in church, I shall greet the many friends at my disposal — sentiment that money cannot buy — and surely pray a little harder for those in need.

I shall take notice of the amenities we often take for granted like a warm home, utilities at our disposal, and the comfort of knowing I am surrounded by love. Christmas has a habit of becoming as unpretentious as a synthetic tree.

Love is real and genuine. It gives us character and credibility.

Love your church. Love your God. Love your family. And if you do, you will enjoy the best Christmas ever.

Have a good one!