Chaplain's Corner: It's a Wonderful Christmas

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Michael Tinnon
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Chaplain
A Christmas Parable: A man is climbing a mountain, at the top of which he hopes to find God. By ascending the heights, the seeker expects to leave all the cares and miseries of life behind in the valley. But while he climbs, God is coming down the mountain into the toil and grief of life. In the mists of the mountain, God and the man pass one another. When the man reaches the mountain top, he will find nothing. God is not there. What then will he do? He knows the climbing was a mistake, but in agony of that recognition, will he fall down and despair? Or will he turn to retrace his path through the mists and into the valley to where God has gone seeking him? Love came down at Christmas, but only a few perceived its coming.

One of the most meaningful holiday traditions that I've continued for the past 30 years is to watch the timeless Christmas classic, It's a Wonderful Life. This Christmas blockbuster stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a despondent family man who is saved from committing suicide by an elderly guardian angel named Clarence who is trying to earn his wings.

The angel Clarence gives George a great gift: The chance to see what the world would be like if he had never been born. At the very end, Clarence says, "You see, George, you really did have a wonderful life." The story ends with George discovering the deeper meaning of Christmas and running down the streets of downtown Bedford Falls proclaiming, "Merry Christmas."

Well, the Christmas season is here again. What are you feeling this Christmas?

The nostalgic sights, sounds and smells of Christmas saturate the air we breathe. Christmas lights are strung, Advent candles are burning and Christmas decorations are going up. Plays, pageants, cantatas, recitations and dramas are programmed in every church and chapel. Families will be gathering and soon, around the Christmas tree we will be sharing.

Yes, it is Christmas time: wonderful, wonderful Christmas time.

That is, for many it is wonderful. Where families are complete and where there is health and a certain measure of prosperity there will be outward indications, at least, of a happy, joyous Christmas celebration.

But what about the George Bailey's in the world? For the despondent, the unemployed, the bereaved and the ill, those outward signs may be missing. But then again, maybe they won't; for the true criteria of happiness is found not in the tinsel, the paper wrappings, and the multicolored lights. Nor is happiness found in the value or the abundance of the gifts that we exchange.

How easy it is to slide into the trance-like state, to be conditioned and programmed by a commercialized society that emphasizes material things.

One of my greatest fears is that many will be measuring the impact of Dec. 25, 2009, by the gross national product, the balance of payments, or the volume of merchandise moved. The brutal reality is that these materialistic indicators have a way of affecting us all.

By contrast, we should be remembering the God who loves us and desires to journey with us.

So perhaps this year, we can pull back the trappings and look past the dollar signs and maybe - just maybe - we can catch a new glimpse of the real meaning of Christmas?

Every year we talk about it, but do we really mean it?

Perhaps a diligent and conscious effort to do so could be invigorating. It could provide a fresh concept of what this sacred season could truly mean to all of us.

Indeed, Christmas can be wonder-full because we will have rediscovered the deeper meaning of Christmas.

May it be so for you and your loved ones.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!