The first Christmas, we are told, started with three wise men that followed a star that led them to a newborn baby in a manger, whom they believed was sent to change the world.
It is written they brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The first is said to have symbolized the baby’s birthright as the King of Kings, the second his divinity and ability to heal the afflicted, and the last, we are told, pointed to his future suffering and death by being crucified on a cross for the benefit of human souls, so they could also be free of the mortality that plagues the human condition.
Many also believe that the crucified man conquered death and rose from the dead, and in fact, he will some day return to rule the world in peace and harmony.
It’s been a long time since that first Christmas and many things have changed in the world.
Many say a lot has changed for the better, thanks to the baby who grew up to preach about a new path of compassion and brotherhood for all people.
He taught people how to treat each other and also urged them to have a personal relationship with the Divine Creator of everything we know.
Some believe all of what he supposedly said, and some just like his message that still has an impact, even after two millennia.
The world has changed a lot in 2,000 years and so has Christmas, the day we celebrate the birth of that special baby with such a unique destiny.
Whether you believe in the baby the wise men found in a manger as a divine Being, there is much evidence and most scholars agree, his life and the things he said and stood for changed the world more than anyone else.
Most agree the changes have been for the better.
Life, fantastic as it can be, has always been hard. The toughest and most worrisome times were when the sun hardly shined as the days grew short, the crops dried up and the cold of winter set in. The human spirit has always yearned to find ways to lighten the mood of these darker and unsettling times of the year.
Even before the first Christmas, people devised ways to celebrate the season, turn its gloom on its head and gather together to light fires in the night and share a sense of brotherhood, if only because they knew they needed each other to survive.
Modern doctors say laughter is the best medicine. Perhaps. I heard of a woman who had cancer and said her major source of healing was watching comedy movies.
If there is any truth to that, the joy and merriment of the Christmas season cannot be too far behind in its ability to be a salve for our state of mind and general well being. At least, that seems logical.
However, Christmas, as we know it today, seems to defy logic. It has morphed into a series of myths, legends and cartoon-like characters that for some reason resonate in our souls.
It apparently matters little how silly many seem to be. We have Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer, toy-making elves, Christmas trees covered in gaudy ornaments, and all kinds of crazy lights strung on and/or around our homes and workplaces.
In our time, Christmas is not just for people who believe in the baby Jesus who was born in a manger. It seems to have become a celebration all people can identify with on some level.
Christmas is something that seems to fill a hunger in us all for that special thing we call “hope.”
So what is the Christmas spirit and how do you get it?
Is it in the evergreen aroma wafting through a home with a well-decorated treeand a warm fire?
Is it in the twinkling eyes of children of all ages as they watch or take part in the Seal Beach Christmas Holiday Parade?
Is it in the hearts of grown children coming home to their parents’ house to share in their traditions of the season, whatever they may be?
Is the Christmas spirit somewhere just below the mistletoe? Is it in the cookies and milk a child leaves for Father Christmas, hoping to soften him up so he leaves behind that special doll or BB gun they so covet?
Is it in the soul stirring words of a preacher in church on Christmas morning or in a smile shared on the street as we wish total strangers to have a “Merry Christmas?
Is it in a little girl’s dreams of sugar plum fairies or things my true love gave to me on the 12th day of Christmas?
I don’t know. It just seems to be something we need. I suppose when you add it all up, the Christmas spirit is simply a gift that wise men give to themself.
Dennis Kaiser is the editor of the Sun Newspaper.