By Ernest O'Neill

Jesus is the Reason For the Season - Part 1

By Rev. Ernest O'Neill

A certain king had a son that he thought the world of. He wanted to give him a wonderful birthday party for his 21st birthday. And so he invited all his friends and all the friends of the son who admired the son and he brought them all to this massive party in his beautiful castle in which he lived.

Everybody came and they all had all kinds of presents with them. They started the meal and had a great banquet and when the banquet was completed the real purpose of the party began. That was when they were to express their love and affection for especially the son of the man who was having the birthday party.

At that very moment, everybody turned to each other and started to exchange presents. And after about 10 minutes of this, if you had been in the room, you'd have seen in one corner this dear father with his 21-year-old son sitting together alone and everybody else having a wonderful time exchanging presents with each other. No one was giving any presents to the son whose birthday it was. Of course, you can apply that. You know what it is because it's a picture of our Christmases.

It's our modern Christmas. We all plan to buy presents and we all talk about buying presents but the guy who ought to receive the presents is the only one who doesn't get any. And all of us get presents. We accept that because part of it is we're expressing love to each other and I don't think we want to change that. But we do need, loved ones, to see that the whole purpose of Christmas is this dear Jesus. That's the whole purpose of Christmas.

There is something paradoxical in the fact that we not only just give presents to each other and none to Him, but that we give all our attention to each other and none to Him. And that's maybe the real tragedy and why our modern Christmas becomes emptier and emptier every year. It is not just because of the commercialization. We've all accepted that and go with it. But it's because the central figure of Christmas is totally and absolutely ignored by most of us.

So, we end up trying to substitute a kind of human warmth and a "hail fellow well", that kind of togetherness and camaraderie, for the real spirit of Christmas that is found in Jesus Himself. I don't know if you have ever found what I found. At times we've had a great Christmas. It's just been wonderful. We've got all kinds of wonderful presents and had a wonderful dinner. Everything has gone great but it's a bit like the morning after the night before.

After it's all over, you're gathering up the bits of wrappings and you're wondering, "Now what did this achieve? What was it all about?" And of course, most of us try to console ourselves by saying, "Well, it is a little bit of the morning after the night before. After all, if you are a mature growing adult, you'd know that this is what happens after all the fun is over." And yet many of us, in our deepest hearts still feel, "It wasn't exactly what I thought it should be." And even if we have gone to "The Messiah" or have gone to "Scrooge", or we've gone to all kinds of things to try to make it exciting, we still miss something of what we think Christmas should be.

Now, I don't know what you do, I know what I do. I think back to Ireland where of course Christmas was wonderful. It's wonderful in all our memories. Christmas is wonderful because the memory has the ability to filter out the unpleasant things. So the memory always sees the thing as more perfect than it really was. But many of us tend to do that. We look back and we say, "Oh, the old Christmases."

I'll tell you in England we used to look back and say, "Oh, the old Christmases when there was snow on the ground." Because all our Christmas cards in England used to have snow on them. But we rarely have snow in England at Christmas time. So we would look back to those Christmas card days and say, "Oh then, it was really Christmas."

Now, loved ones, it may well be that our moms and dads are no longer alive. It isn't that our family home is no longer ours. It may well be that it isn't because the times have become so commercialized. It may well be that it isn't because so many things have become insecure in our world; it may simply be that you and I are behaving like the people at that birthday party. That it is us who have taken our attention off the one who makes Christmas, Christmas.