EDITORIAL: Meaning of the season

CHRISTMAS wishes come in many forms, but it’s fair to say that most of them revolve – in Australia at least – around home and family.

Most people love to be united with their nearest and dearest in a celebration of connections, caring and togetherness.

Gifts are exchanged to symbolically underscore the importance of relationships, but the greatest gift is to be together, sharing time and experiences.

What a gift it was, then, for 11-year-old Jacob Cooper to come home from hospital on Monday night and to wake up in his own home, surrounded by his family, on Christmas morning.

The youngster suffers from a rare form of leukaemia that, until relatively recently, was often fatal. That Jacob’s prognosis is very favourable – thanks to scientific and medical advances – must surely be regarded by those who love him as an immeasurably valuable gift in its own right. 

His presence in the midst of friends and loved ones at home for Christmas is what most would wish for any family.

And his story, reported in this newspaper today, will remind many other families how lucky they are to have each other and what a precious, fragile thing it is we celebrate at Christmas time.

That’s just as true for those who embrace the grand and stirring Christian spiritual message of hope and mercy as it is for those to whom the peaceful appreciation of togetherness is the sum total of the occasion’s significance.

In either case it is part of the nature of this season of thankfulness too, to consider those who – for any one of many reasons – are unable to enjoy the comfort of family love and friendship.

That is why the various churches, in particular, often emphasise as part of their observances and celebrations the virtue of inclusiveness of fellow human beings in a greater family of mankind.

Many charities redouble their efforts at Christmas, knowing how such a social focus on family can exaggerate lonely feelings in those who are without. 

Generous community volunteering, in fact, has become part of the caring tradition of Christmas. The kindly cooks and others who bring food and cheer to the poor and sick, the carollers in nursing homes, the gatherers and distributors of gifts and hampers and those who simply visit to talk and listen all do honour to the spirit of Christmas.

The best givers are those most grateful and appreciative for the gifts they have themselves received. And in gratitude and appreciation lies the meaning of the season.