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What's Christmas all about?

By By Craig Ziemba
Dec. 23, 2001
Did you buy Aunt so and so a present? She gave you one last year. Put up enough lights to avoid looking like a Scrooge? Make the tough call over which family to spend the Holidays with?
Christmas in American culture comes with some baggage that can steal the joy of the season and make me wonder with Charlie Brown, "What's it all about, anyway?"
Made-for-TV specials teach that Christmas is about the spirit of giving. I love to give gifts, especially to children or those in need. Spontaneous, heartfelt generosity truly blesses the giver far more than the receiver.
When I was a self-centered child looking for loot, I didn't understand that, but as I grew up, my attitudes changed. Sadly, though, it seems that the spirit of giving for many in our society is still held hostage by juvenile materialism that turns the joy of giving into panic with a deadline.
We have to find something  anything  to give Aunt so and so. The difference between a gift and a tax is whether love of fear is the motivation behind it. Surely there's something more to Christmas than just giving and getting.
Most people, then, would say that Christmas is about spending time with family. Some of my fondest memories are of early Christmas mornings with Mom and Dad in pajamas and mussed hair beaming as we read the Christmas story and ripped open our presents.
By afternoon the house was full of aunts, uncles, and cousins to play hide and seek with. Having everyone together made Christmas the best day of the year, and I always looked forward to the day when I would have children of my own to spend Christmas with.
World events turned this year's holiday plans upside down. I'm spending this Christmas (my baby boy's first) away from home with a lot of other Mississippians in the Air National Guard flying missions in support of the war in Afghanistan.
We know that we have the love and support of our families and our nation. We have boxes of candy and hundreds of heartwarming letters written by schoolchildren that begin, "Dear Soldier."
We have the pride of knowing that we are helping fight for a just cause. But nothing can take the place of our families.
And yet, I still think we have reason to rejoice this Christmas. More important than gifts or even spending time with family, Christmas is the one day of the year that we celebrate the fact that God so loved the world that He sent His Son to be born in a lowly manger, to live among us, and to give His life for us so that we might have hope in the life to come.
And that gives me reason enough to wish you all a Merry Christmas.
Craig Ziemba, a pilot, lives in Meridian.