From riches to rags

Published 11:48 pm Thursday, December 4, 2008

When we are kids, we tend to define Christmas by the presents under the tree. At least, that was true for me. Thinking back to childhood Christmases, the only thing that helps me decipher one year from the next is what gifts I received.

Yes, I went to church regularly, was taught the Christmas story over and over again, and was told “it is better to give than to receive,” and deep down I knew this must be the truth.

But try telling that to a kid who pretty much gets whatever he wants on Christmas morning, and it will likely sink to the bottom of his priority list, although he’s completely unaware of the list.

Sadly, many people never emerge from this frame of mind.

As I grew up, however, I started to hear stories about people who didn’t have the luxuries we enjoy. I found it hard to wrap my brain around the concept of not being able to wash your hands, not being able to walk in a good pair of shoes, not being able to eat.

Forget about luxuries; these people didn’t even have the necessities. But I had never met anyone like that — you know, out of sight, out of mind.

Then, a few years ago, I heard about a group of missionaries to Ecuador. The lady I interviewed kept talking about how poor these people were yet how happy they seemed to be.

“Americans must be the dumbest people in the world,” I thought, because for decades we have been chasing after the illusion that happiness comes from material possessions, and yet we are miserable compared to these people.

We laugh at celebrities like Paris Hilton, who seem to have everything within arm’s reach, but what we don’t realize is we are much more like them than we would like to believe.

This is where the Christmas story truly hits home. Here is a couple giving birth in a place where animals eat and sleep (imagine the smell!) to the very King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And these people have absolutely nothing. And yet, they have everything.

You don’t have to be a genius to figure out the message of the Christmas story. But few people seem to have grasped it.

– Scott Mims is the news editor for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Friday. He can be reached at