Christmas is an event that has emerged in bits and pieces from out of the mists of antiquity. The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas time dates back to a practice in vogue in pagan Rome. Each year, on Dec. 17 and 18, ancient Romans celebrated the festival of Saturnalia, honoring Saturn, the god of agriculture.
At this time, Romans exchanged gifts of sweet pastry, lamps, precious stones, and gold and silver. The early Christians, however, shunned Christmas-giving, for the very reason that it was popular among what they called the "pagan Romans".
It was centuries before they accepted the custom. I mean let's just admit it, who doesn't love getting gifts? Getting gifts on your birthday is wonderful, how great is it to get gifts on someone else's birthday too! When they did accept it, the custom was tied to a feast celebrated by the church. Christmas was considered to be the greatest feast of them all, and Christmas time became the reason and the season to give costly gifts to each other.
In England, in the 11th century, William the Conqueror set an example of gift giving by shipping the major part of his plunder, bounty, or loot from the defeat of the English Saxons to the Pope in Rome. English kings kept the spirit of giving alive, choosing Christmas time to spread the wealth. King Richard the Lionhearted annually distributed his treasure among the knights and nobles at this time. King John of Magna Charta fame gave his servants gifts of fine clothes. But the kings made sure the gift giving was reciprocal, if you did not give a gift, you were not going to get one. King Henry VII began a custom of Christmas "boxes" as a means to extract tribute from his subjects. Queen Elizabeth I demanded that she receive Christmas presents from the highest to the lowest of her court and employees all the way down to the cooks in the kitchen. Even the royal garbage men sent the queen gifts, and it better not be garbage. It was usually two bolts of fine cloth that may have cost their weekly salary.
In reality, true Christmas gift giving goes all the way back to God giving the gift of his only begotten son. "For God so love the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that who so ever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)" Which proves you can give without loving, but you can not love and not give. Love always gives the best gifts.
My father told me that he knew I was in love with my then date who turn out to be my lovely wife, because he said "when you took all the other girls out on a first date you went to McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy's, or some other fast food restaurant. But your first date with her you took to the most expensive place you could afford, the Brown Derby" He was right; when you are in love you give your very best. For those that believe in the Christian way of thinking, God gave us his very best, in his only Son.
Now we have an opportunity to give our best to someone else. It's not always about money, the things that might be remembered longer our acts of kindness. Not that I have anything against money, I accept all donations (smile). In a year of failing economy, home foreclosure, record job lost, you can still have a great Christmas. Yes, our family should be on that list, but also those that are less fortunate than ourselves. It's time to take the selfishness back out of Christmas. Give to someone that can't give back to you.
I went to a Rotary meeting one day and heard of someone just like that in Wheeling. The last story I want to share with you is a dream celebration for a man named George who told Ms. Laurie, don't worry about my dream because, "the only thing I want you can't do?" Well for Ms. Laurie that was a challenge she could not let go by. "What is it you want?" George replied, "I want to ride a motorcycle, not just any motorcycle, but a Harley!" Before second wind could work on a dream for a patient, they have to make sure they are physically able to do it. George was not able, because of a cast on his leg. The doctor suggested a sidecar. George exclaimed, "That's not the same!" Finally it was time to take off the cast. Calls went out to motorcycle clubs across the valley. 150 cyclists signed up to make his dream come true. The day of the event it rained and only 12 Harley's show up. When the schedule time came for George to take his dream ride, the rain stopped, and the sun came out, as if God was saying, "I want to see this too!" After George's dream celebration other residence of the nursing home remembered that was their dream too.
As we move into another holiday season, why not look to help someone's dream come true. It may surprise you how easy it may be. No matter how young or old a person may be they still have dreams. Someone said, "You are not old by chronological age, you are old when you give up on your dreams." I have met a number of people who are secret dream makers in people's lives. It's the best gift you can give yourself.
The best blessing you can ever have, is to be a blessing in somebody's life.
From the Cummings Family, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, and any other time you might celebrate. Live, Laugh, and Prosper is my wish for you and yours.