Wishing You Peace and Joy This Holiday Season

Happy holidays, readers! If you celebrate Christmas, have observed Hanukkah or another religious festival, or are preparing to mark the secular commemoration of Kwanzaa, may this season be happy and blessed for you. Whether you are religious or not, you may likely agree that this is a wonderful time of year — with the happy greetings, the exchange of carefully selected gifts, the lively parties, joyous concerts and meaningful services to mark this special season.

Over the years, many folks have observed that people are kinder, gentler, more gracious and perhaps more forgiving during the Christmas season. A sense of excitement and anticipation seems to fill the air. People greet family members and old friends with great enthusiasm, often saying a cheery “hello” to complete strangers. The challenge, of course, is to carry this spirit of goodwill throughout the coming year.

At the same time, we are acutely aware that all is not joyous and bright for many people. A couple of area churches planned special services on Friday to mark the longest night of the year, with the understanding and realization that this season of joy and celebration can be difficult for many people — those who are grieving, who have undergone major losses, whose hopes have been dashed, who are in despair, who are experiencing the dark night of the soul. One must be cognizant of those who are grieving, those who are unhappy, in our midst.

This past week, I have thought often of Wheeling resident Harold O. Thomas, one of the kindest, most generous persons I have ever known, and the tragic fire last Saturday night that claimed the life of his dear wife, Opal, who was a caring and dedicated nurse, and destroyed their house. Possessions and things can be replaced or eliminated, but a beloved family member is irreplaceable. It is an unimaginable tragedy, and my heart goes out to Harold and his family.

I am aware that other families in the Ohio Valley also have sustained tragic losses, through fires or accidents, in the death of a loved one struck down in the prime of life, or the passing of a beloved patriarch or matriarch. No one can explain why bad things happen in this life, but they do, and the human spirit can sometimes demonstrate an unexplainable urge to survive, to surmount tremendous obstacles.

Not everyone will agree, but I can state personally: As people of faith, we find comfort in God’s presence and promise, and rejoice in the knowledge of the Creator’s unending love for all creation. The meaning behind the religious holidays of this season exemplifies this message. Christmas is, indeed, a season of joy, of hope and new birth.

The joy of this season is expressed in so many ways — by the kindnesses we show to one another, in the compassion for those in need, in the love and care that we feel for the people who are most important to us. For many, the joy is shared most evidently in the giving of gifts. It is exciting to find the perfect gift for a friend or relative, and fun to receive the perfect present. The gift itself isn’t what is important, though; rather, it is in knowing that one is loved and in having someone know us so well that he or she knows exactly what we would like or need.

If you are one of the thousands of area residents who helped make Christmas special for those in need, thank you, thank you, on their behalf. The generosity of people in this area and the willingness to help, whatever one’s means, is truly inspiring. There is so much need in our world; one person or one organization can’t do it all or help everyone, but each individual and every group makes a difference. The need doesn’t end with Christmas. Many caring people in our valley are aware of that need to help throughout the year, and they are saving lives. We are at our best when we are doing for others, without regard to personal reward.

On a lighter note, I enjoy the whimsy of this season. On Thursday, I chuckled upon seeing a young man with sections of his spiky hairstyle dyed red and green. At any other time of year, it might have seemed a silly choice indeed, but somehow it seemed appropriate for the Yuletide. The same afternoon, I spotted a deliveryman sporting a whimsical jester’s cap, in red and green, naturally. For 51 weeks out of the year, probably he wouldn’t be caught dead wearing such a silly style, but for Christmas, it adds a bright touch. I’m told that Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy teacher Valery Staskey-Roeder’s young music students performed an updated version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” for the school’s Christmas party. The “three French hens” were wearing berets, while the “four calling birds” had cell phones, of course. What a delightful expression of holiday cheer!

I also love the wonder of this season — the excitement of a child seeing Santa Claus or St. Nicholas, the tender love of a tiny girl calling “Bye-bye, Baby Jesus” upon leaving the Nativity scene at Oglebay’s Winter Festival of Lights. As a person of faith, the wonder and joy of the season culminate with the Christmas Eve church service for the Feast of the Incarnation — the candlelight dancing through the darkened sanctuary, the brass shining thanks to the altar guild’s best polishing, the flowers and greens arranged to perfection and, most important, the liturgy and the music, the praise and thanks given to God.

Merry Christmas, readers. May your holiday season and the coming year be happy, healthy and blessed.

Linda Comins can be reached via e-mail at: Comins@news-register.net