Message of Christmas should be one of peace and hope

Scott Swanson

So, here are my New Year’s resolu…

Wait, that’s next week.

It’s been that kind of a year.

My mom used to tell me (when I was actually young) that time speeds up as you get older. Well, this year has definitely flown by.

Seems like we were just celebrating Christmas a few months ago and now here it is again.

It’s been a topsy-turvy year for all of us, if not on a personal level, certainly in the headlines and on the TV screen.

I won’t try to repeat it all here, but it’s been a wild ride, with dramatic shifts in Washington D.C., terrorism and terrible mass murders, repeated natural disasters, etc.

Crazy year.

Then we have the holiday season, which creates its own brand of excitement.

At your newspaper, it’s a busy time, with seemingly endless events to be covered.

To be honest, though, I’ve enjoyed many of those Christmas celebrations. I think, in general, this is one of the best-organized and eventful December I can remember in the 13 years I’ve been here, which I like to think is a sign that life in Sweet Home is growing a little richer.

Here’s what I mean: One of the marks of what “experts” consider a healthy community is an active cultural life. Annual celebrations such as the parade, the Christmas tree auction, the concerts, the living nativities, the caroling – all contribute to that. They create opportunities for people to gather and participate, to enjoy beauty, and maybe even think seriously about what this time of year should be about.

I was at the East Linn Museum Saturday night and there was an impressive crowd there – I’d estimate about 100 people just in the short time I was present. I was told there were at least as many or more the previous Saturday.

Part of the draw, of course, was the free wagon rides through the downtown area, provided by Chafin Farms. The fact that it wasn’t pouring rain, as has been the case in the past, was probably a plus, but I don’t think a lot of those little kids would have cared if there had been a few drops. The wagon has a roof, after all.

But there was a crowd inside to enjoy hot chocolate and listen to members of the Sweet Home Chamber Choir perform carols, as they had the week before.

I don’t know how many of us noticed – and we didn’t find out until too late in one case – but both the Sweet Home band and choir put on special Christmas concerts this year, in addition to the musical and earlier performances. I appreciate that.

Many of our kids put a lot of work into learning the skills of music and it’s gratifying to see them getting a chance to perform. Kudos to our band and choir teachers for that. It’s great to see them raising the bar, which can only help our students improve their skills.

In our culture, the Christmas season is about all the things I just mentioned. What concerns me, personally, is that it sometimes seems less about how it really got started: the birth of Jesus Christ.

In our fast-paced, self-confident world, the notion of “sin” may seem outdated, but when we look at all the craziness around us, which I mentioned at the top, it’s pretty obvious things aren’t good, despite our confidence in our ability to solve all our problems.

A very clear theme in the Bible is that Jesus came to earth to provide a solution to sin, and thus to make possible peace with God – and between ourselves. That’s the original Christmas message.

I didn’t mention church when I talked above about culture and all that, but amidst all the celebrations in many of our churches, particularly those that take seriously the message of the Bible, we can find solutions to our problems that we can’t come up with ourselves.

Christmas services should be a place where flawed people can come together to hear a message, from the Scriptures, of restoration and hope offered by Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate.