Christmas kept in perspective

Published 10:58 pm Friday, December 10, 2010

Marchers from Cedar Park Elementary School help carry the school’s banner during last Saturday’s Christmas parade in downtown Selma. Parades and parties are a big part of the holiday season in Dallas County, but many residents also remember the true reason for the season.

It’s a busy time of year.

People are out shopping for Christmas presents, fighting for parking places and the best deals. It’s easy to lose a grip on the real meaning of Christmas.

In these days that approach the celebration of the birth of Jesus,  a few community residents talked about their advent thoughts and how they maintain the season.

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For Becky Nichols, director of the Selma-Dallas County Public Library, the whole message of advent and Christmas is one of hope. That’s what the child, Jesus, brings to her mind, she said.

Instead of turning to the gospels, though, Nichols draws her reading from Isaiah 9:6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

That scripture represents for her the hope for the world, the birth of the baby Jesus.

“To me the lights of Bethlehem should burn every day of our lives,” Nichols said.

The struggle is to feel that sense of hope and peace not only on Christmas Day, but the other 364 days of the year.

As she sits in her office writing policies and procedures, there’s a poster hanging on the wall about the book, “The Polar Express.” It is a children’s book about a doubting boy who boards a magical train headed to the North Pole and Santa Claus’ home.

Nichols said the book mixes the magic of Christmas with the spiritual and “makes life a little softer and easier.”

The children of the area stay on the mind of Yasmin McKinney, director of the Selma-Dallas County YMCA. Two months ago, she had to close the Brown YMCA, a facility in East Selma that provides a save haven for children after school.

But the building has no heat and no water. McKinney said she is not about to place children in an unsafe atmosphere.

Many of those children cannot get to the other YMCA. They call McKinney and ask her to open up the Brown. It breaks her heart, she said.

In these days before Christmas, McKinney thinks of Luke 18: 15-16, “And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

McKinney finished the passage, then stressed, “For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

McKinney sees hope and the future in the children of the community. Her concern has eked into her dreams. “I dreamed I was on a float and I was pulling up all these children.”

McKinney wants the adults in Selma to do more for the children.

“We need to be missionaries of God and to see our future,” she said. “It’s not about us anymore.”

In Valley Grande, Steve Neighbors prepared for Christmas with his family, which includes two children, a 4-year-old and a 12-year-old.

Neighbors’ Christmas will include the traditional gift giving and the time with family. But his family will stop during the day to talk about Jesus and his birth as the reason for the celebration.

“You’ve got to remember what it’s all about,” Neighbors said. “It’s easy to get caught up in everything, but Jesus brings it back.”