A special time of the year

  • Published
  • By Chaplain, Lt. Col. Kenneth E. Harp
  • 97th AMW Wing Chaplain
What is it that makes this time of the year so very special? Surely there is something more to this season than a superb economic marketing plan. The Friday after Thanksgiving still marks the official start of the shopping season. For many businesses, financial survival is dependent on this season. Black Friday draws a multitude of people into the stores in the middle of the night in search of a bargain.

I must confess that for the last two years I have been an active participant of this almost sacred ritual. In spite of the fact that I have a strong disgust for shopping that is equaled only by my aversion to getting up before sunrise, I found myself standing in line outside a store, in the cold, at 3:00 a.m. The door-buster draw for me was not the discounted stuff. What I purchased was time with my daughter.

Chevy Chase tried to capture the perfect family holiday in the classic movie, "National Lampoon Christmas Vacation". He had it all, an extra large tree, lights all over the exterior of the house, extended family members gathered around the dinner table, and finally, the Christmas bonus to pay for everything. It is funny to watch them survive the holidays, but most of us are seeking something more than survival. For me, the magic of the season is found in two sources - family and faith.

Family customs and traditions create strong relational bonds and are the source of many precious memories. Decorating the house can be a major chore or an opportunity for centering the family's focus. Making the effort to get everyone together to share a meal communicates the importance of the family unit. Perhaps that is why when a family member is deployed during the holidays, it seems to magnify the separation and loneliness.

As an Air Force community, we have Airmen celebrating a number of different religious events. Some celebrate the miracle of lights and the rededication of the Jewish temple. The Winter Solstice carries great significance for our Airmen who practice earth-based religions. Some Airmen mark the Islamic New Year on Dec. 7. Others focus on the six pillars of the family. Still, others remember the coming of the Christ Child and God's love for humanity. This is a holy season for many people.

When faith and family are combined the season has a supernatural power. For the pinnacle of the season, I look forward to the Christmas Eve candlelight service. At that time, holiday preparations are as complete as they are going to be. The stores are all closed and there is no more shopping. We will drive to church for the evening service and I know that sometime during the service I will be standing with my family, holding a lit candle singing "Silent Night, Holy Night." My family and my God are all together in one place and one point in time. At that moment, everything somehow makes sense.

My Christmas wish for you is that you might experience the magic of such a moment. May you and your family have a safe and joyous holiday season!