It’s finally here. Is there a more anticipated day anywhere on the calendar than Christmas morning?

For children, the longing that has been building for weeks is finally over. For adults, a shopping season that began before the Thanksgiving leftovers were cleared from the table has come to an end.

But for all of this, Christmas is a religious celebration. It is the day Christians throughout the world celebrate the birth of Jesus. Churches in our community have been holding special services leading up to this day, and many welcomed the holiday with early morning services this morning.

Christmas is one of two Christian holidays that are universally celebrated, this one for the virgin birth of Jesus in the manger, the other for his crucifixion and resurrection. Of the two, Christmas has become far more broad-based. Non-believers may take their kids to an Easter egg hunt, but otherwise don’t give much thought to Easter.

Christmas is different. It has become a wintertime celebration for the entire nation. Whatever your religious beliefs may be, it is impossible to turn on the TV, walk into a store or even drive down the street without being reminded that, “tis the season.” Many decide to join in the fun, without sharing in the reverence that the day was meant to bring.

Religious leaders are rightfully concerned that the solemn meaning of the day will get lost amidst the holiday rush and rampant consumerism. The tension between the holy and secular aspects of Christmas is nothing new. It has long been a struggle for the clergy to divert attention from the lure of a magical Santa who slides down the chimney to leave gifts under the tree.

In recent years, America has seen a growing diversity in faith beliefs, as well as those who choose not to follow any organized religion. For some, this has further eroded the true meaning of Christmas. But in a nation as large and diverse as ours, and a national holiday as ubiquitous as Christmas, it is inevitable that not all will see the meaning in the same way.

It is important that the true meaning of Christmas always remain in the hearts of believers. Sharing the celebration with others should in no way lessen the importance of the day.

The message of Christmas is one of joy and hope that all can understand and appreciate.

For many, Christmas is a time of family traditions. Families develop their own unique routines that, over the years, evolve into cherished traditions. We tell and retell the same old stories that only get better with time.

Some families have plenty. Their trees are always weighted down with colorfully wrapped packages beneath. Others have less, but still find a way – sometimes through the generosity of strangers – to make the day special. But even those with little create their own cherished traditions.

Whatever your traditions and however you are celebrating, we wish you all a Merry Christmas.

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