There are dozens of smiling faces in this week’s newspaper, faces which mute the cynics and renew the faithless.
Each Christmas, this newspaper compiles photos of area children in a special section. It is a Christmas card to our readers signed by the hundreds in whose hands rest all of our dreams.
Where but in the eyes of a child can you see both the past — little Tommy has granddad’s eyes, sister Suzie has her mother’s hair — and the future — Blake wants to be a fireman, Jane a doctor.
Tomorrow is a memory of today by the children, youngsters whose innocence is our joy, whose faces light up our homes and whose wonder keeps tradition alive.
Many cultures believe that it is the old who keep traditions, who pass down the wisdom of years and the touchstones of life. But it is the young who are the torchbearers. Without a new generation to teach, traditions mean very little.
It is that faith in the future and our collective desire to pass the cultural torch which makes Christmas a special season. It is a season of faith, not only of religion, but also in our humanity. Even with the kitsch and commercialism being blared around us, the fundamental desire for “peace on earth, good will to men” rings through. Our social conventions may sometimes be shallow, but somehow generation after generation will touch the core of the Christmas spirit and be renewed.
For some, it is a season of mixed emotions. Amid all the gaiety, there are the memories of friends and family who are gone. The music, the smell of a Christmas tree and the annual nesting of families bring back the bittersweet thoughts.
For others, it will be the last Christmas together. There are those who face the inevitable end and even having lived a good and long life is little consolation to the families who will miss them.
But in the faces of their offspring, of the great-grandchildren who laugh and play around them, is the faith that pulls life forward. Without the laughter of children, there would be an emptiness in their wake.
And so, the torch is passed and the traditions continue, someday to be in the hands of those who now play around the Christmas tree and peek up the chimney.
The past and the future come together at Christmas — the memories of our own childhoods mixed with the new memories now being formed by our children. They will someday look back at this special time and smile just as we do at our own childhood memories.
And someday our children’s children will tug at the Christmas tree ornaments and be amazed by the shimmering Christmas lights along city streets.
They will sing in church plays and perform in school concerts.
They will sit on Santa’s knee and promise to be good so they can get that new bike.
They will look at the nativity set and rearrange the pieces, always making a special place for the Baby Jesus.
They will want to watch the tape of Rudolph until they know every line by heart.
They will ask 1,000 questions about the sleigh and reindeer.
They will leave milk and cookies because Santa’s sure to be hungry.
They will check the stockings every day, just in case.
They will eat too much candy and be happy about it.
They will hope.
They will dream.
And they, too, will someday know that the first gift of Christmas was a child.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald. This is his annual Christmas column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org