As the song says, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. For many families, this is true.
You see, kids love family. It’s what they instinctively long for. Christmas is really the celebration of what many in the church call the Holy Family: Joseph, Mary, and the boy-child Jesus, as many Christmas carols tell us.
For me personally, growing up in a broken home made Christmas all the more important. From memory, I think I spent at least three Christmases away from my Dad, maybe more. That was tough.
It’s even tougher for single Dads who cannot see their children at Christmas. They feel the pain acutely. Because of the grief, my Dad experienced so many times in my childhood as a single Dad missing his boys. This has made me even more passionate to help other single Dads in my work at Dads4Kids.
Spare a thought and a prayer for our single Dads this Christmas and of course the children of broken families. They all are doing it tough.
It was the best year of my life pre-teens. My younger brother and I used to trap rabbits and hunt quails and roam the farm and surrounding bush. We used to go to school barefoot (many children did in those days) due to a combination of poverty and practicality. It was every boy’s dream.
Getting back to Christmas – I was so looking forward to Christmas, but it took such a long time to come. Remember the days for you as a child when the whole year was a lifetime? It seemed like Christmas couldn’t come fast enough.
Sure, I was thinking about the presents, but it was more than toys. There was something mystical about the season. As Edna Ferber said, ‘Christmas isn’t a season, it’s a feeling.’ Richard Paul Evans put it beautifully when he said, ‘The smells of Christmas are the smells of childhood.’
I remember that particular Christmas. We were ‘helping’ (read watching) our neighbouring farmer friend make silage out of his corn crop. It was late in the afternoon; the air was still and the conversation turned to Christmas. After all, it was December and Christmas was only a few weeks away.
Our neighbouring farmer said in hushed tones, ‘Even the animals observe the Christmas season.’ My Dad asked, ‘What do you mean?’
Well, he continued, ‘I have noticed that on Christmas Eve my animals get quieter, more contented, as if they are observing the birth of Christ. Think about the fact that Jesus was born in a stable. Most likely he had to share the space with donkeys, cows, and sheep. Maybe a few chooks as well. We don’t know 100 per cent what animals were in the barn, but I do know that even my animals seem to be aware of the spirit of Christmas.’
Remembering that farmer’s words remind me of the words of Hamilton Mabie, ‘Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.’
Yes, I love the presents, the Christmas lights, the Christmas tree, and the family get-togethers… But for me, Christmas is very special. Christmas really is ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ as the song says.
I am not alone. According to Mark McCrindle over 90 per cent of Australians believe that we should be reminded of the story of the first Christmas via nativity scenes in public places. When it came to which of the following Christmas greetings should be used, 85 per cent of people opted for ‘Merry Christmas’ instead of the more insipid ‘Seasons Greetings’ or ‘Happy Holidays’.
Australia is still a very spiritual nation. Even the farm animals agree, according to the neighbour of my youth.
The word Christmas first appeared in Old English in 1038 as Cristsmaesse. The first part of the word comes from the Greek word Kristos which means the ‘anointed one’ or ‘Christ’. The second part of the word comes from the Latin word missa for the celebration of the Eucharist.
So, this year, think of Christmas as the Mass of the Christ, the celebration of God’s love through the coming of Christ, and the death of Christ.
As Randy Stonehill sang in his Christmas Song for All Year Round, ‘Jesus gave the greatest gift of all to you and me. They led Him to the slaughter on a hill called Calvary, and Mankind was forgiven, we were all forgiven, when they nailed Him to the tree.’
So Merry Christmas to all the readers of Flat White and a special thank you to the man, Christian Kerr, who stewarded this now Australian journalistic institution since its inception in 2016. We are deeply saddened by his recent passing. He understood the pain of being a single dad and he was deeply devoted to his children
As Burton Hills said, ‘The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family, all wrapped up in each other.’
Give this gift to your children this Christmas because such a gift originates in heaven. Remember you are giving them lifetime memories.
Warwick Marsh is the founder of the Dads4Kids Fatherhood Foundation and has worked as a musician and creative communicator/TV producer. He is editor in chief of the weekly Dads4Kids email newsletter and in 2001 received a Centenary Medal.
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