See Christmas through eyes of children

Published 12:28 am Sunday, December 23, 2018

About this time, most of the adults are probably ready for Christmas to be over soon.

We all get caught up in the stress and trouble of making sure we have the food, the presents and the decorations all just so.

But, as much as it would pain many people to hear this, none of that matters. No, the true meaning of Christmas isn’t about any of those things. It’s about love, love for our families, but also — and perhaps much more difficult, but much more important — love for complete strangers.

Obviously, the purpose of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of God’s great gift to mankind, his Son, Jesus Christ.

The Son ultimately sacrificed his life for all of us — complete strangers in a way — and all he asked for in return was love. He seeks us to love him and love one another.

That seems easy to do, but in fact, it’s among the most difficult things in life — putting others’ needs ahead of your own. But signs of it are all around us if you look. I’ve seen the love of Christmas this year several times through the eyes, actions and reactions of a number of children.

Their innocent, unbridled focus on the moment and often unvarnished, unfiltered and untainted view of the world is something I wish all of us could keep.

The exuberance of Christmas is seen in young eyes when Christmas trees are lit, stockings are hung and Santa Claus dons his red suit.

But most of that is still focused on self. The love and attention paid to others is much cooler, though it seems increasingly more rare. A few weeks ago, our church opted to do something a little different for a Wednesday night service. The adults headed out in teams to distribute small gifts to residents in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in the area. The purpose was simple: Offer some of God’s children a reminder that they are not forgotten. He loves them and cares for them regardless of their state of mind or body, and their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ love them too.

Our group was fortunate to have a young lady tag along. I learned later that she was Lyla Wood, the 9-year-old daughter of Russ and Meghan Wood. Lyla’s dad thought she would enjoy the nursing home work — and he was correct. But he probably didn’t realize she would school the adults on how to show the Christmas spirit.

This little girl was fearless in a place of unfamiliar sights and sounds. She would knock and enter any room without concern.

She was unafraid and bold in her work — just like God asks all of us to be.

She put the adults — including yours truly — to shame. Whereas most of the adults in the group were a little on the shy side, knocking quietly and stumbling for the right words to say to a complete stranger, young Lyla was determined and focused.

Room after room, she walked up to complete strangers, wished them Merry Christmas and handed them the small gift bags.

It was at that moment that I realized: We all need to be a little less apprehensive of strangers and strange circumstances.

We need to be like Lyla — a little less worried about being uncomfortable and a little more focused on caring for others with compassion and without fear.

Several of the adults noted as we slowly shuffled down the hall to the next room how lucky we were to have Lyla in our group. Even at her young age, she was showing us how it was done.

It was truly a great Christmas moment and a lesson for us all.

My son, James, who just turned 2 is a little like Lyla already. He’s not fearful of unknown things, and his excitement for Christmas is building by the day.

Lately, he’s taken to standing up on the highest thing he can find — chairs, benches, piles of toys, etc. — and yelling loudly, “Merry Christmas!” Wouldn’t it be great if we shed our stuffiness and pride and were bold in our feelings, our emotions and our actions?

Merry Christmas to all.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.