It begins early, after the Thanksgiving rush has subsided, as the days grow shorter and carry a briskness they did not have before. It begins when a neighbor comes by and calls out "Merry Christmas."
Then the season is here, the time for gift-giving, for sleigh bells and window candles and the old familiar and beloved carols sounding their eternal message. Once again, it has come, and the world rejoices.
As a man walks along the street, he finds himself humming with the carols sounding from the stores he passes. He feels a new spring in his step. He feels the tensions of his work subsiding. A new peace settles upon him.
It is Christmas with all its teachings of brotherly love, though the world remains a turbulent place. Across the globe mankind continues in its age-old exercises of hate, in man killing man, in men using weapons of war nearly inconceivable in the agonies and destruction they produce.
Nations battle nations. Men visit death upon fellow men. The promise of brotherhood and peace among all men made in the simple manger where the Christian savior was born goes unfulfilled.
But it is there. It lives. And countless millions find solace from it, take inspiration from it, believe in it and try to live by it. The world aspires to fulfill the promise of the manger.
And every year, Christians turn their thoughts to the eternal story of the savior born to the Virgin Mary. They hail the newborn king. There are the lights, the Santas on lawns, the eager and sometimes chaotic shopping in efforts to find the right gifts. Folks mail cards to friends seldom seen, many in places far away, telling they remember them and wishing them a Merry Christmas.
Children delight in the season. They wonder at the story of the baby. They help put lights in windows. The little ones thrill in their visits to Santa, and they stand in wide-eyed wonder at the sight of the decorated tree.
Gift giving, like that on the first Christmas when the Magi came bearing gifts, goes on. It reaches a frenzy with many people, and some condemn it as too much. But the tradition stems from the virgin birth, and the thought behind it is of love and generosity and good will. Parents ponder long over what they can get for their children, weighing the desires and needs of their family against the weight of expenses and budget.
Children likewise ponder long in hopes that they will see smiles and joy in the eyes of their parents as they open their presents.
And as the carols play and the lights shine, those walking along see the star atop a church steeple in the distance. They feel a joy beyond that of any other time, a surge of sentiment that this is their hometown. They're where they want to be.
They are at peace. It is Christmas, and they welcome the sight of another person. Their smiles broaden. They express it all, all that the season means, all that 2,000 years of expectation and adoration have brought to mankind and are brought forth in this glorious season as they exclaim:
Bob Reed, 93, is a former opinion page editor at The Sun. His email address is Bgreedy1@aol.com.