When many people start to creep up to the age of 50, 60, or 70, they begin to lament the onset of “old age” and fantasize about the fountain of youth or hope Google is about to market some alien-inspired gadget which will zap them back into a twenty-something.
For me, the onset of “old age” is just fine. One of the main reasons being that it means I’m old enough to remember when it was not only normal to say “Merry Christmas” to people at Christmas-time, but truly odd if you did not.
Now, when advertisers seek to cash in off a certain day using only Santa Claus, Rudolph, a Christmas tree and elves in red and green clothing in their commercials, everyone understands that the time has to be Christmastime, and yet the advertisers are now so petrified of offending even one person who might tweet from his mom’s basement, that they refuse to insert the words “Christmas” or “Merry Christmas” into the ad.
If someone reminded those advertisers that “Christmas” is actually the celebration of the birth of the Baby Jesus, they would have to be institutionalized.
As terrified as they may be, I have yet to meet the person who is offended by the words “Merry Christmas.” More than that, I have lost track of how many times Jewish and Muslim friends (including my wife born into the Muslim faith in Iran) have said: “This is politically-correct insanity. The United States is still a majority Christian country. Simply say ‘Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays’ and be done with it.”
This “controversy” did play on my mind as I was writing a little Christmas novel meant to unite titled: “The North Pole Project: In Search of the True Meaning of Christmas.”
For the main character in the book, the “True Meaning of Christmas” is: “When we help those in need or in pain, that is the most meaningful gift we will ever receive.”
This main character in the book, he starts out as a hedonistic multibillionaire who has everything but nothing. As he realizes that truth and contemplates the worst, his minister brother calls and talks him back from the abyss while reminding his little brother that the only time he remembered him truly happy in life was when they lived on an army base with their military parents and, as an eight-year old boy, he would collect old soda bottles to turn in for money so he could buy Christmas presents for children on the base less fortunate than them.
“Become that person again,” the minister brother begs him. “Become Santa Claus all over again and in the process, save yourself.”
As the story evolves, the multibillionaire joyfully reconnects to his faith and then stands upon it as the foundation for the good he intends to do for the rest of his life.
With his own faith now restored, the multibillionaire does speak to the dismay and sadness he personally feels that Christ has been removed from Christmas and that millions of Americans are now worried about saying “Merry Christmas” to others out of fear of offending someone.
That said, he also goes out of his way to stress that anyone of any faith or no faith is welcome to be a part of his special project to help poor and disadvantaged children around the world as long as they are good people. For the multibillionaire, the only thing that comes to matter is the shared human connection of helping children in need. Desperately poor and forgotten children who are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or of no faith.
For the multibillionaire realizes that they — and we — are “All God’s Children.”
The story also incorporates subplots of 10 adults from around the world going through some of life’s most difficult challenges and being “saved” by this project while they and hundreds of other volunteers band together to help those tens of thousands of children from multiple nations.
The idea for the book first came to me after I sat down with an actual minister to talk about why so many people were not only losing faith but also literally walking away from their houses of worship and their faith.
He told me he felt that more and more people were simply losing faith in their “leadership” — be that leadership political, corporate, or faith-based. They saw and heard from leaders who continually “talked the talk but never personally walked the walk,” he said.
This minister also said he felt that churches were no longer addressing the basic needs for joy, hope, faith and a simple human connection. We both agreed that, faith aside, this country and the world needed a whole lot more of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
So…no matter if you take joy in saying “Merry Christmas,” are fearful of doing so or are one of those people offended by the words, simply help someone in need during the “season” and call it anything you want.
That good deed will still be the best gift you will ever receive.
And for that, I say, “Merry Christmas.”
Douglas MacKinnon is a former White House and Pentagon official and author of the novel: The North Pole Project: In Search of the True Meaning of Christmas.
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