One of the things I like best about Christmas comes when we have a free evening and can just start driving, looking at all the beautiful Christmas decorations and lights.

It seems like each year there are more and more new decorations to see, especially the larger-than-life inflatables. There are more Santa, reindeer, snowman and Christmas tree combinations than a person can count. For the most part they are bright, colorful and cheerful, bringing smiles to everyone, especially children.

While there are dozens of decorations that remind us of the mythical Santa Claus and his Christmas Eve sleigh ride, there are very few decorations to recall the Christmas Eve birth of Jesus.

Without those decorations our Christmas celebration is like the most delicious of meals cooked without salt, pepper, sugar or other seasonings or spices. The meal might be perfectly prepared, but without that little extra touch of seasoning, something is missing. Without Jesus, something is missing from our Christmas celebration.

We don’t have to look very far to know what I mean.

A couple weeks ago many people, especially in churches, began lighting Advent candles. While there are some variations on what the four outer candles in the Advent wreath represent, it is agreed that the white candle in the center represents Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

The other candles represent gifts brought to the world by the Christ child — love, joy, peace and hope.

Those are all gifts that we long to have in our lives, yet so many are unwilling to reach out to the only One who can give them to us. Instead, people prefer to put their trust in other places, such as:

• The government. Over the past few years we have seen that the government offers anything but love, joy, peace and hope. Instead we are given more and more mandates, often in the form of taxes or higher fees, that must be paid, with little help in knowing how to pay them. Families have been torn apart because of the political rhetoric that floods the airwaves. Hatred in our country appears to be at an all-time high as so many of our government leaders have chosen to tear each other down rather than work together for the good of the people who elected them — quickly forgetting their campaign promises to serve.

• Material things. How many people will spend way more than their budget allows, trying to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak? Those gifts will look nice under the Christmas tree, and undoubtedly those receiving the gifts will be excited. But when January comes and the bills for the credit cards start pouring in, where will the love, joy, peace and hope be found?

• Sex. So many times we hear of people who are looking for love, and think a sexual relationship is the stepping stone to that love. Instead, the relationship often turns out to be a short-lived romance, maybe even the so-called one-night stand, resulting many times in STDs, unwanted pregnancy and heartbreak rather than the love, joy, peace and hope that is craved.

• Drugs and alcohol. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard someone say they need a drink to forget the stress of the day, the problems on their plates, the frustrations they are feeling. The same has been said by drug users who are just looking for a way to escape, even for a little while, from the realities of life. But instead of finding love, joy, peace and hope in the bottom of a glass or in a pill or some other form of drugs, too many times all these people find are a new home inside a jail cell or coffin.

When I was in grade school, we were still allowed to read the Bible and pray in school. Now that privilege has been taken away from our children. They no longer present Christmas programs and enjoy the eagerly-anticipated week-long Christmas vacation, instead they present holiday programs and enjoy winter break.

Somewhere someone with a loud enough voice decided for all of us that it was time to take the seasoning (that would be Jesus) out of our Christmas celebrations and look what has happened to our country. Perhaps it is time to remember that Jesus is the reason for the season, and get the seasoning back into our Christmas celebrations. Then, and only then, will we find the love, joy, peace and hope that we desire.

Thought for the week — Take Christ out of Christmas, and December becomes the bleakest and most colorless month of the year (A. F. Wells)

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