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Rusty Saber

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by Joe McAdoo

Christmas is almost here. The holiday shopping frenzy has reached the chaos stage. Time will tell if merchants have had a good year. If the big crowds storming stores have been buying, it should be a good year for stores and, of course, credit card companies.

Christmas is truly unique; unique because it is a Christian holiday that is celebrated by people of other religions and by those with no religious beliefs. Actually, it is two different holidays that come on the same day and share many of the same symbols.

There is the Christian religious Christmas, and there is the nonreligious Christmas, which may be called Christmas, the same as the religious holiday, but is more properly called Xmas.

Xmas takes on many of the trappings of the Christian religious celebration of the birth of Christ.

We all know about the Xmas season. It involves joining everyone else, including most Christians, in a shopping binge. We all run around looking as clueless as the O.J. Simpson jury, trying to figure out what we are going to buy for people who don't need anything.

We decorate our homes with a mixture of Xmas and Christmas decorations. Christmas trees, colorful lights, greenery, holly, Santa Claus dolls, sleighs and snow none of which is connected to the Middle East where Christ was born. Those celebrating the religious holiday probably will decorate with these same symbols, adding religious symbols such as angels and nativity scenes.

Christian churches call the formal Christmas season Advent, which prepares believers for the coming of Christ. The Xmas season celebrates shopping. Xmas celebrants don't participate in the Advent season, but Advent celebrants partake in the shopping season.

The religious celebrants sing Christmas carols, "Silent Night," "Away in a Manger," "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" and the rest. Xmas celebrants sing what they call Christmas carols, "Frosty the Snowman," "Winter Wonderland," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and the like.

Christmas parties are hosted and attended by both groups, where they may sing each other's carols. The Christ child is the symbol of the Advent season; Santa Claus is the shopping season symbol.

While most Christians also celebrate Xmas, non-Christians rarely celebrate the religious Christmas. The ACLU is ever on guard to make certain that none of the trappings of the religious season spill out onto public property where it might be viewed by Xmas celebrants.

The two holidays often come together, with no threats of lawsuits for violating the "Separation of Church and State" clause of the U.S. Constitution. Both wish others Merry Christmas, an Xmas greeting. The Xmas Santa Claus visits the homes of both; they sing each other's carols; both crowd the stores to shop.

Both believe that Christmas is for children. The look on the faces of children on Christmas mornings charms the hearts of both. Of all that is shared by Christmas and Xmas celebrants, the best is the wonderful feeling that mysteriously overtakes both, called "Christmas Spirit."

Magic is in the air, which is a feeling that comes upon us, a feeling that is reflected in the Biblical phrase, "Peace on earth, good will among men." Believers and nonbelievers alike seem immersed in peace and goodwill.

Most of us are kinder and more generous than at any other time. Those who never give the poor the time of day during the rest of the year, go out of their way to something good for the poor at Christmas. It's magic!

This thing called Christmas Spirit is humankind at it's very best. Those who celebrate the season as a high holy one, and those who celebrate it because it's there, come together on this unique holiday to be the best people they will be at any time of the year. It is difficult (not impossible, sadly) for hate to exist when the Christmas Spirit flows through us. What a lovely time it is.

To all you Rusty Saber readers, regardless of the Christmas season you celebrate, Merry Christmas! And God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen and Gentlewomen!

(Joe McAdoo is former chairman of the communication department at Drury College and a Springfield public relations consultant.)

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