Parents should teach children true message

Christmas is a time of joy and celebration, but it’s also a time of faith, hope, gratitude and appreciation.

People here should reflect on that today and feel comfort as they ponder Jesus’ birth in a manger in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, but also not fail to acknowledge how much the world has strayed from the message “Peace on Earth” that is one of the important tenets of this holy observance.

Amid the anger, tribulation, crises, loss and human suffering that seem to know no respite in today’s world, all right-thinking people nevertheless should consider it their personal obligation to try to make better their community, state, nation, as well as their personal lives.

Those are gifts too big to fit under a Christmas tree, but the positive impacts emanating from such determination and good example can have lasting meaning not only on one’s own life, but on the lives of many others.

Meanwhile, parents should consider this day an opportunity to instill in their children the broader meaning of this important season — to impart the understanding that Christmas isn’t just about wants and enjoyment.

Part of that deeper meaning that parents should strive to deliver is that Christmas also is a time to feel compassion for the many who have much less or who will be alone on this holiday.

Many people of central Pennsylvania don’t realize that homelessness exists here, but there are more than a few individuals — some people call them “squatters” — who spent Christmas Eve, and who will spend Christmas night, amid squalor or outdoors –without any of the conveniences of life most people take for granted each day.

That isn’t a part of Christmas most people like to think about while listening to carols bearing such messages as “all is calm, all is bright,” or other Christmas music such as “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” but reality’s reality that can’t be denied.

For many people here and beyond, that’s why the Christmas season would not be fulfilling and it would trouble their conscience if they didn’t in some way make an effort to help someone — or some people — less fortunate.

Most of those men and women who manned the Salvation Army’s kettles leading up to today didn’t do so because they had nothing else to do.

They devoted those hours because of a commitment to help the needy, some of whom might not otherwise share in any of the meaning of today.

Keep in mind those who will join in providing meals for the needy today.

Also not to be forgotten are the anonymous donors who paid off the layaways of families in recent days, helping to relieve some of those households’ financial stresses.

But children, as well as adults, must never ignore that Christmas begins with God’s gift to mankind — Jesus Christ. Jesus and his teachings provide a pathway to a better life and a more peaceful world, a fact that’s ignored, unfortunately, by too many on this planet, including, locally, those whose “holiday preparations” involved stealing packages delivered to residents’ doorsteps.

The Dec. 11, 2017, edition of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown’s newspaper, The Catholic Register, quoted Pope Francis as saying that Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, is a time to identify sin, help the poor and see beauty.

Today, people here and beyond — non-Catholics as well as Catholics — should assess how well they responded to that message.