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 OPINION PAGE - DECEMBER 22, 1999 - COMMERCE, GA

Editorial
The Commerce News
December 22, 1999

You Can't Take Religion Out Of This Holiday
It is tempting to say that the celebration of Christmas has outgrown Christianity ­ that is, that even people who make no claim to be Christians observe the holiday, but in spite of all the secular songs, characters and celebration, Christmas remains a holy day.
It is holy to Christians because it is the celebration of their god's decision to send his son into this world to bring it salvation. That son, Jesus Christ, is the foundation for the entire religion, and Christmas is second only to Easter among holy days for Christians.
Culture has added a lot to the celebration of this sacred event, from Santa Claus to colored lights and from Christmas trees to watching "It's a Wonderful Life." An event that got its origin with the birth of the God-child to a poor, young Jewish girl has evolved into an event that includes both serious religious observations and massive consumer spending. Music of the season runs from "Silent Night" to "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," from "O Little Town of Bethlehem" to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Yet through the evolution of it all, take away the birth of Christ and there is no celebration.
Christmas forces the Christian to confront his savior. It compels the Christian to remember the nature of his God, an all-powerful, all-knowing entity whose love for mankind is infinite. The act of love that sent Christ to earth is at Christmas reflected in untold ways, from the corporate collection to provide food and gifts to the needy to the simple donation to the Salvation Army in front of Wal-Mart. People respond with kindness and generosity in response to the celebration of the birth of Christ.
The fact that the celebration is enjoyed by millions of non-Christians is itself a witness to the birth of Christ. Every person who sees and participates in a Christmas celebration is forced to look beyond the secular portions of the event and to contemplate the real reason the holiday is special for millions of people. It is impossible to have a purely secular Christmas. It is impossible to go through this season in this largely Christian country without acknowledging that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ.
That birth is the springboard of hope that all Christians have, hope made real by the events they commemorate at Easter. The death, burial and resurrection of Christ, the fulfilling of scriptures about the messiah, are the essence of Christianity. Christmas marks the beginning, Easter the fulfillment.
These two days give Christians confidence that God is with them, that they will be with God, and that nothing that happens on this earth is beyond God's love and influence. For Christians who contemplate these things, it is hard not to have a merry Christmas. May yours be the best ever.



By Any Other Name...
The Covington School System has quit calling its two-week break from classes "winter holidays" and, gasp, has gone against not only its attorney's advice, but political correctness, and resumed calling it the "Christmas holidays."
The American Civil Liberties Union is aghast, and rabbis in Covington call it a "slap in the face."
To which one might ask, why is there a two-week break in school if not for Christmas? It is not for Hanukkah, nor for the winter solstice, or Kwanzaa or Boxing Day or even a break between semesters. The break was created in every school system in America because of Christmas. Don't tell anyone, but the Commerce, Jefferson and Jackson County school systems all refer to it as the "Christmas holidays."
You can change the name on the school calendar if you wish, but you can't really change why these holidays are observed. Politically correct or not, insulting to some or not, the days off of school around Christmas will be known for what they are ­ the Christmas holidays.

Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
December 22, 1999

Rat Trap And
Poison; A Practical Gift
Probably the most memorable Christmas gift I ever gave was the rat trap and poison I carefully wrapped for my step-grandmother.
I always leaned toward the practical. She was not much of a housekeeper, a lady whose idea of cleaning up was to toss the dirty dishes toward the sink. How the rats could stand it, I don't know; I never spent a night there. I'd have slept in a room with two rabid dogs and four rattlesnakes before I'd have been caught in that house after dark.
My parents chuckled when she opened the gift. I was too young to see any humor. She lived with rats; a trap and poison seemed appropriate. I cannot recall her reaction, but I do remember that about a week after Christmas, she called to ask where I'd bought the poison. Seems the rats liked it so much better than her cooking that they broke into the box and ate it all.
Not every Christmas gift can be so thoughtful and useful.
My sister once gave my mother a permanent at a local hair salon for Christmas. Dad and I were in the driveway shooting baskets some days later when Mom came back from the appointment.
"How do you like it?" she asked.
"Looks great," Dad and I chimed.
After she went inside, Dad turned to me and said, "Could you tell any difference?"
I couldn't. That gift just didn't measure up to the standard set by rat poison.
Mom was always the most difficult person to shop for; she just didn't want a bunch of things. So, she ended up getting sets of juice glasses, boxes of candy, picture frames or something else from the five and dime.
Dad was a little easier to shop for. He could always use another tie, and once we got older, bourbon was the gift that kept on giving. The last Christmas I was at home, I gave him a bottle of bourbon for Christmas, and he gave me a bottle of bourbon. That was simple, effective and appreciated on both ends.
For some reason, Barbara elects to do all of the gift buying for our family. She's pretty good at it too, starting before Thanksgiving to take care of the items destined for my family, so we can take them when we go down for Thanksgiving. Then, every evening after work (if the stores are still open), she continues to find things for everyone else.
I shop only for her, and she has learned to leave me a list of items and places where they might be purchased, so as to cut down the surprises like that many-colored sweater I bought in 1989 that she never wore because it was "too warm."
(Steven and I will go out Christmas Eve to do our shopping. It's a tradition of the Beardsley males, accepting the challenge of the last day. We visit the hardware store, the mall [through a side door to avoid the Salvation Army], the Firing Line and Dunkin Doughnuts, and may catch a movie if there's anything showing that involves a lot of crashes or explosions. That gets us in the holiday spirit.)
We'll have a great Christmas, and I hope you do too. However you choose to celebrate, whatever the level of giving and receiving might be, enjoy the time with your loved ones. The gifts will come and go, but the memories of the time spent together will last forever. Merry Christmas.


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