Editorial: The spirit, the message

Christmas is the transcendent holiday of our culture. It is a Christian holiday, reflecting our nation’s history as a colony and refuge for Europeans. But its appeal and the trappings of its celebration reach beyond the holiday’s deep sacred meaning for Christians and it has become something— not greater, certainly — but broader, more encompassing.

The symbols are everywhere. It’s celebration seems at times to have been appropriated entirely by commercial interests and pop culture foolishness, leading to concerns among some of the devout that its true meaning is lost.

Do not fear.

The message — the meaning — is alive and shines for all to hear. Peace on earth. Goodwill to all. Caring for, and sharing with, those who seem the least. Forgiveness. Sure, people have moments when they don’t live up to it. But who does not know that this — and not buying stuff — is the message, the meaning. And who that hears does not know that this is goodness itself, simple and pure?

Bishop Frank Caggiano, who recently was installed as the head of the Diocese of Bridgeport, shared his thoughts of the season. Caggiano said he believes Christmas has a “universal message that resonates with non-believers — with everyone.

“Anyone who thinks love is worth living for, worth sacrificing for, and worth sharing with others — anyone of good will has a home in Christmas,” he said.

All the tinsel and canned music in the world, all the mall Santas and TV specials, cannot diminish the power of Christmas and its story. The star, the shepherds, the angels. No room at the inn, and the child born in the hay, to be presented with gifts by kings and worshiped as a savior, the world’s hope.

And our pervasive celebrations of the holiday — the music, the decorations indoors and out, the parties, the bell-ringing, card-sending, gift-giving, the charity — change our streets, our communities, the way we live our lives each December.

It’s an assertion, a belief in the Christmas story’s promise: That the world, so often disappointing — unjust, painful, or simply mundane — holds the seeds of something finer, better, more pure. That this world can be transformed, reborn as it should be, saved.

That is the magic of Christmas, echoed and asserted each December by all those yards overfilled with colored lights, all the fake white beards, every tired shopper sporting an incongruous red hat.

The message is not lost amid the music and glittering lights. The story and its promise are too powerful.

The real Christmas — a star in the night, a hard journey, a birth invested with the sacred, lives blessed with belief in the promise of a better world — lives.

And it always will.