It's the moment in the 1965 TV classic A Charlie Brown Christmas when the cuteness and the silly humour ("do inkeeper's wives have naturally curly hair?") fall away and the wise younger brother of Lucy Van Pelt walks to the middle of the stage to explain to Charlie Brown and the world "what Christmas is all about."
He then cites with a clear, strong voice from the New Testament and the Book of Luke, chapter 2, verses eight to 14, ending with "Glory to God in the highest and on Earth, peace and good will towards men."
In our secular society, there are many things still worth embracing from world religions and the belief in the transformative power of love and hope is one of the best. Christianity happily borrowed from pagan festivals and rituals to make itself more relevant in its early days, and Christmas is perhaps the best expression of that. In that light, there's no harm in doing some borrowing back and applying those attributes to modern life.
By its very nature, Christmas brings light on the darkest days of the year. The lights outside and inside our homes are beacons of warmth and sanctuary. The tree (several Citizen staff members proudly boast multiple Christmas trees in their homes) is a reminder that life continues, even though the earth is frozen and the sky is black.
Regardless of our personal spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof), Christmas brings out the best of our community.
We give generously, particularly of food, because the warmth of a full tummy is a great present, particularly to those unfortunate enough to not receive it on a daily basis.
Most of us stay somewhat removed with our giving, however, giving cash and food to volunteers who will then pass it on to the agencies who actually work with the less fortunate. The social activism of many religions frown on this and encourage believers to live among the poor and the sick, as Jesus Christ and many other holy men and women in the past did.
Few of us, even at Christmas, are willing take this path.
Instead, too many of us gather with just our friends and our family, a stressful enough exercise at the best of times, to eat too much, drink too much and spend too much, all in our own honour. Our reaching out to one another often doesn't go much beyond reaching into our wallets.
Still, the good cheer somehow outshines the bleak negativity. The smiles and the laughter, the smells of good food, all glitter in the air.
We can't help but be sentimental, recalling the best moments of our past, but that can quickly turn, and we can start to feel sorry for ourselves, remembering who and what we've lost. Here again, religious protocol can show us a better way. Traditions and customs around worship serve to ground us in the past while keeping us firmly in the present, to better appreciate our good fortune, regardless of how that presents itself.
At this time of year, the rich and the poor, the healthy and the sick, the young and the old, all have an opportunity to "fall on their knees and hear the angels' voices."
We just have to open our hearts and listen.
For Christmas, remembering our small place in the vastness of time and space of our universe while also wishing each other peace and good will going forward is the best gift we can give one another.
In fact, it's the only gift that really matters.
-- Managing editor Neil Godbout