By Bruce Stambaugh
Vigilance is one of the main themes of the annual Christmas story. It shines as bright as the star of Bethlehem far beyond that ancient event.
For Christians around the world, the season of waiting for the Christ child, Advent, is nearly over. It is a glorious time of hopeful expectation that is renewed each year as winter approaches.
I have always found it a mystery and an appropriate model that the first folks to see the long awaited Christ light were generous foreigners and lowly shepherds, not saintly religious leaders or puffy politicians. The kingly entourage from the East persisted in their long travels to find the meaning of the glowing light in the night sky.
A heavenly host appeared to the shepherds, not exactly the highest class of citizens even in today’s social mores. Even as a child, I wondered why other folks never noticed what the wise men and the herders plainly saw.
Old and New Testament scriptures alike urge worshipers of God to be on their guard, to be alert, to watch for the light. Asked when that would be, even the adult Messiah said no one would know. The key was to be ready.
As a child, the holiday season meant a lot to me. First came Thanksgiving, the family gathering, and fun and amazing food. Next was my birthday, which always falls three weeks before Christmas.
Just as I knew then, I know now that Christmas is upon us. As a child, those were exciting days of expectation going from unwrapping my birthday present to the anticipation of opening too many gifts beneath the Christmas tree.
Now all those years later, the joy and excitement of Christmas remain, but hopefully for more mature reasons. As a grandfather and mostly retiree, I try to savor and share the mere moments of each day. It’s why I write. It’s why I photograph. It’s why I live.
As I have aged, I realize just how gracious life has been to me through all the experiences I have had. Best of all, most of those blessed moments have been with family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and sometimes even strangers who happen to love the same joys in life as me.
To me, the idea of Christmas is to use our senses to absorb, inhale, appreciate, touch, smile, share, and reflect the goodness given to us. Our gift to the world is simple. We are to use each and every opportunity to make the world a better, brighter place, one thought, one kindness, one word, and one person at a time.
From my perspective of living nearly seven decades, there is no higher calling than to make someone’s day, to help where help is unexpected, to give even when it’s your last dollar, to smile though you are hurting.
The first Christmas likely wasn’t December 25. Those poor sheep and their tenders would have been mighty cold. No matter. I like that we flow so smoothly from Thanksgiving to Christmas and on into a New Year in one holiday season.
My goals in life are simple. I try to awake every morning with a keen sense of the unknown. I cherish comfortable rest at night from a day well spent in service to others. Each day we renew the process all over again until our last breath.
Best of all, we know not the hour or the day or the season. We only know to live vigilantly.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2015
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