Ah, Christmas.

It’s that special time of year when many of us celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is a time of great joy as we celebrate the reason for the season.

We sing Christmas carols and go to candlelight services and midnight mass. It’s a time of sharing, caring and greeting of strangers with a friendly nod and a smile. We keep “Christ” in “Christmas.”

It is also the time that Santa makes his annual appearance at the homes of good boys and girls – and at shopping centers and in parades and television specials.

We sing Christmas songs and shop and decorate our homes. It is a time of great joy and smiling at strangers and being good because we know Santa is watching.

Seems to me the level of excitement in the season is the same whether one celebrates the Christ child or the jolly fat man – or both.

And why shouldn’t we celebrate both? It occurs to me that these two share more than a holiday season.

The Bible tells us about the birth of Christ, in a lowly manger in Bethlehem about 2000 years ago. On that night, a bright light appeared in the sky to lead shepherds and wise men to his birthplace. They followed the light to see this child who would be called Jesus.

I can only imagine what it must have been like to see a heavenly host of angels singing at his birth! Those poor shepherds must have been freaking out!

The history of Santa Claus goes back a long way too. The original St. Nicholas was a Christian monk in Turkey around 300 A.D.

He has been described as a generous man who secretly brought gifts to deserving or needy children, dropping coins through their windows at night so he wouldn’t be discovered.

It must have seemed quite magical for a poor family to find gold coins on their dirt floor on a winter’s morning.

It is interesting that none of us alive today have ever met either of these celebrities in person.

But we certainly know them both.

Ask any Christian or any child to describe one or the other and you will likely get an impassioned reply about love and kindness and sharing and giving.

I don’t mean to imply that a kindly old man is on the same level as the Son of God, but I do believe there are similarities in the two and in the values that they both promote: being good and kind; generosity, both to loved ones and those less fortunate; selflessness in putting others’ needs ahead of our wants.

Both Jesus and Santa embody the spirit of the season.

There is another similarity between Jesus and Santa: both inspire us to love one another. And isn’t that the whole foundation for the spirit of Christmas?

What might happen if we all carried that spirit throughout the year?

What if we all were a little nicer, a little more patient, a little kinder every day?

What a difference we could make in our world.

Think about it.

I wish for you and yours a joyous Christmas and a New Year full of great possibilities.