Essays on Faith: A season of love, giving and receiving

A few years ago, we hired a young man to do some work in our home. As I watched him work, we enjoyed friendly conversation about our families, our interests and finally, the impending holidays. That’s when the conversation went off the rails!

“I hate Christmas!” the man said abruptly. “I’ll be glad when it’s over.”

Though stunned and speechless for a moment, I couldn’t let the remark pass without a response.

“We must remember the meaning of Christmas,” I said.

“Don’t start that religious stuff with me,” he answered rather curtly.

I felt insulted, embarrassed and hurt! I was inclined to tell him to leave, or that I’d appreciate his showing more respect for me since he was in my home. But, although it had taken many years, I had finally learned to think before speaking. After all, if I became angry, wouldn’t that give the impression that I wasn’t living my religious beliefs?

My parents taught me a valuable lesson in my youth. In an effort to repress my quick temper, they repeated Proverbs 15:1 over and over until I heard it in my sleep. “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” I learned it well and found it necessary to evoke it many times throughout my life.

So, thankfully, by the grace of God, and with that scripture in mind, I managed to smile and remain calm. In the end, the man regretted his actions and apologized.

But after he left, I considered his attitude and his statement: “I hate Christmas!” And felt sorry for him.

If he really feels that way, I thought, he’s missing so much.

How could anyone possibly experience the Christmas season without at least a small degree of joy in his or her heart?

Without appreciation for the lovely Christmas carols playing continuously?

Without feeling like a child at the sight of colorful, sparkling decorations, brightly lit trees shining from neighborhood windows, wreaths on doors?

Without a sense of love and charity?

What a special time of year it is! As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, we delight in the joyfulness of the season. Enduring, unconditional love is at the core of every human being, just waiting to be expressed. We see it in the innocent faces of children, in the devotion of a young couple, in the manner in which grandparents interact with a young grandchild and in the tenderness of two people who have spent a lifetime together.

Christmastime is a season of goodwill and generosity, a time when the giving spirit is flowing freely. Everywhere, we see examples of people reaching out with kindness and love. We see compassion in their thoughts, words, actions and attitudes. We see expressions of generosity and thoughtfulness. Many are praying for those in need and sharing their own blessings.

Wherever you go, people greet you with happy smiles and the words, “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy Holidays.”

The pleasant aroma of spicy baked goods fills the air as mothers bake cookies, fruit cakes and other delights for their families and for sharing with neighbors and friends.

The ways in which charitable deeds flow are endless. Those who express loving generosity not only bless others, but also themselves.

Long ago, three wise men followed a star and were led to Bethlehem. There, they found the baby Jesus and were filled with joy. Reverently, they offered gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Today, people the world over exchange gifts on Christmas, but the greatest gift doesn’t come wrapped in a package. It is the unconditional love of God. This is the gift that Jesus Christ lived and taught. Love is the gift that brings life to both the giver and receiver.

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we give thanks for His life, example and teachings and we acknowledge our birthright as children of the Most High.

I pray that everyone will open his or her heart to the love of Christmas and celebrate it by humbly giving and gratefully receiving the peace and love of God.

And on this day of rebirth and new beginnings, may we find in our hearts a willingness to do our part in making Christmas not just one special day in the year but a way of living life.

With only two and a half weeks left until the big day, there is much to be done. The pressure can become great as the “to do” list grows. The hectic pace is sometimes overwhelming!

Just over a week ago, we feasted and professed heartfelt thankfulness for our many blessings. Now, let us see if we can get through the next eighteen days with our gratitude intact.

Good luck and God bless you all!

Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro.

Essays on Faith may be submitted to gazette@wvgazettemail.com.

Find more Essays on Faith at www.wvgazettemail.com/life/religion.

Funerals for Monday, January 27, 2020

Davis, Valerie - 11 a.m., Cunningham Memorial Park, St. Albans.

Hamrick, Leonard - 1 p.m., Waters Funeral Chapel, Summersville.

Hughes Jr., Denver - 1 p.m., Curry Funeral Home, Alum Creek.

Keen, Cora - 2 p.m., Tyler Mountain Memory Gardens, Cross Lanes.

Lazear, Elizabeth - 7 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Masters, Delores - 1 p.m., Glen Ferris Apostolic Church, Glen Ferris.

Milroy, Miller - 11 a.m., Simons-Coleman Funeral Home, Richwood.

Petro, Edith - 11 a.m., Cunningham-Parker-Johnson Funeral Home, Charleston.

Phelps, Herbert - 2 p.m., Chapman Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Stanley, Gary - 1 p.m., Pryor Funeral Home, East Bank.

Stewart, Donna - 1 p.m., First United Methodist Church, South Charleston.

Walker, Iva - 1 p.m., Roush Funeral Home, Ravenswood.

Wilkinson, Catharine - Noon, Raynes Funeral Home, Eleanor Chapel.

Williams, Joseph - 3 p.m., Tyler Mountain Memory Gardens, Cross Lanes.