And so this is Christmas…

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It’s getting close now, almost on top of us. Christmas, I mean, what else? There will only be one more issue of the Times this year, that’s next week, December 18. We can’t expect printers and Canada Post to deliver papers on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, can we But those fall on Wednesdays, and that’s the day we usually appear in your mailbox. No doubt, there are some out there who will be glad of a break from the paper for a couple of weeks (many of us feel that way too!). Even better, next week’s Editorial will be coming to you care of Hilary Thomson, our intrepid reporter, so I’m off duty until January.

“And so, this is Christmas, and what have we done?” I ask that every year in this space, and it’s worth asking again. My goodness, what haven’t we done? I had wanted to publish an article on what our new Council (though hardly “new” anymore, are they?) has been doing in this first year of their mandate. The problem was that, when I asked Mayor and Council to give me some thoughts on their first year, the resulting article was at least twice as long as any we’ve ever published before. Now that’s just a sign that they have been busy indeed.

So much so, it seems, that there will be a need to hire more staff at the Municipal Centre next year. No kidding. According to sources in that hive of activity, the workload for municipal staff has just about doubled since the new team got started. To be honest, it was long overdue. We had been getting by, and no more than that, trying to use methods and policies that had served the municipality fine 25 years ago, perhaps, but this is a happening place, one of the fastest growing municipalities in Ontario, and the very fastest growing in the United Counties.

A change in Chief Administrative Officer, as well the Director of Corporate Services and Clerk, means that there will be a new aspect to senior staff by this time next year, so the changes just keep coming.

As usual, this community has been exceptionally generous in providing for others in the Christmas season. (I should ask: can it be exceptional, if it is as usual? Maybe that’s just the way we are in North Grenville, usually exceptional?) I’ve always found it wonderful that when we celebrate the birthday of Jesus, everyone else gets presents. There’s something proper about that. That brings me to the whole “religious” thing about Christmas, something which some people can get quite annoyed about, for some reason.

There are two versions of the holiday in competition with each other, especially over the past couple of decades. One is the traditional, what may be called the “religious” view – CHRISTmas, complete with carols and hymns about the birth of Jesus, Wise Men, mangers and nativity scenes. This makes sense: after all, what is Christmas but the celebration of Jesus’ birth? It doesn’t really matter that December 25 was just a handy pagan holiday lifted by the Catholic Church as a date to adopt for the occasion. The fact of the birth of Jesus, the way in which that event completely changed the world, for believers and non-believers alike, makes it one of the most significant events in history. We have even changed how we calculate time to mark it. Whether you call it 2017 A.D. (Anno Domini, “the year of the Lord”), or 2017 C.E. (Christian or Common Era), makes no difference either. He is at the centre of history.

Christmas is a specifically Christian event, but open to all to enjoy. Over many years, it has been almost overwhelmed by secular additions: rather like a Christmas tree being almost hidden by lights, tinsel and various baubles. We have added Santa Claus, holly, reindeer, decorations, even Christmas trees, but the reason for the season is still the same. So, what is the true spirit of Christmas? It is celebration, joy to the world, gift-giving and a desire for peace for all.

The competing tradition wants to remove all the “religious” elements from the Holidays (as some like to call Christmas, forgetting that the world “holiday” comes from the words “holy day”, not much of an improvement for the non-religious).

At the very least, here was a man, Jesus of Nazareth, who told people they should love one another, even their enemies. That they should forgive hurts, do good, care for the sick, the hungry, the poor, the young and the old. And yet, they killed him. Strange world, isn’t it? Terrorism, wars, murders of schoolchildren, the destruction of the planet… Yes, given all that, let’s enjoy these few days of warmth, peace, generosity and caring in our community. We have so much to be grateful for (to whomever you wish to be grateful), so much to value and appreciate in our friends, family and neighbours. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could carry that into 2020 and throughout the coming year? For now, let’s be thankful for the reason for the season, and remember that wise men still seek him. So, as this is my last Editorial of the year: From everyone at the North Grenville Times, Happy Christmas to you and yours.

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