Embrace faith, trust today and every day

Last evening, while many children were awaiting the news from NORAD that radar and satellites had observed a sleigh-like object leaving the North Pole, their parents or guardians were making final preparations for the most important aspect of today’s Christmas celebration — the commemoration of Jesus Christ’s birth.

While Christians whose religious observances are governed by the Gregorian calendar — the calendar that is in general use today — celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25, Christians whose observances are governed by the Julian calendar will observe this joyful commemoration on Jan. 7.

Meanwhile, people of the Jewish faith are today halfway through their celebration of Hanukkah, the eight-day Festival of Lights that begins either in late November or sometime in December — this year coinciding with most Christians’ Christmas observance.

At the center of Hanukkah is the lighting of candles of a candelabrum with nine branches, called a menorah.

Mirror readers had the opportunity on Dec. 17 to read about a grand piano gifted to UPMC Altoona, which was played in connection with a menorah display at the hospital.

Last Christmas, Pope Francis offered a Christmas wish for fraternity among people of different nations, cultures, faiths, races or ideas, describing the world’s differences as a richness, not a danger.

Addressing the approximately 50,000 people who packed St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Francis, while championing the rights of religious minorities, said the universal message of Christmas is that “God is a good Father and we are all brothers and sisters.”

Throughout the world, multiple times this year, the pope’s accurate, positive message was ignored.

Last night, NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, continued a tradition for children that began in December 1955, resulting from a wrong number dialed by a child wanting to speak to Santa Claus.

How great the world could be if that kind of joyful spirit existed throughout the world in conjunction with messages like the pope’s and those delivered by area clergy, including Bishop Mark Bartchak of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.

In December 2013, Bartchak, inspired by a work of a spiritual writer and speaker, asked the question, “Where is your Bethlehem as we celebrate Christmas this year?” The deeper meaning of that question was “Where is Jesus Christ born into your life?”

Both are relevant questions today, for leaders of nations as well as the people who they are in place to serve.

Hope, the foundation of this wonderful holiday, will be exhibited by the many people today who will try to help someone less fortunate. Since Thanksgiving, it was demonstrated by the numerous volunteers who stood outside area stores, regardless of inclement weather conditions, to raise money for the charitable works of the Salvation Army.

Hope certainly was at the core of those who recognized the importance of the Central Pennsylvania Humane Society’s annual fundraising effort.

Unfortunately, the holidays are stressful — even a source of depression — for some people, for various reasons. Even some children have difficulty “moving on” after the holidays are over.

Probably the best advice is to embrace all the good things, joyful activities and fun — like the Christmas Eve “Santa watch” — that the holidays have to offer, but make most important in your life the faith and trust that should dominate this day and the days ahead.


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