On Dec. 17, 1903, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, two brothers made history that would change the world forever. That was the day Orville and Wilbur Wright were finally successful in getting their “flying machine” off the ground for the first time. Their self-propelled, gasoline-powered biplane stayed aloft for 12 seconds, covering 120 feet on its inaugural flight.
Excited about their long-awaited accomplishment, Orville rushed to telegraph a message to their sister Katharine: “Success four flights Thursday morning, all against 21-mile wind. Started from level with engine power alone. Average speed through air: 31 miles. Longest: 12 seconds. Inform press. Home for Christmas.”
A story is told that Katharine hurried to the editor of the local newspaper to show the message. After glancing at the telegraph for a short moment, the man said: “How nice. The boys will be home for Christmas.”
It sounds like a joke, but this amusing piece of history made me think of how many times we miss the most important details, and sometimes life-changing events, simply because we concentrate on what brings us superficial, momentary joy.
The editor concentrated on something that, however meaningful and significant, paled in contrast with the big news of the day: man had flown!
I thought about this story while stuck in holiday shopping traffic this week. I had no intention to go near the mall, but could not avoid it on the way to an appointment.
My children asked to put their windows down while Christmas music blared from the speakers. Admittedly, the traffic jam put me in no mood for Christmas cheer. I looked around and realized I was not alone. While my girls flapped their arms out of the car and into the crispy air, dancing to the tune of Francesca Battistelli’s “Christmas Is,” I could tell that their perkiness was causing more irritation than cheer.
But as the words of the song filled the air, Battistelli reminded me to keep my focus where it belongs. The song talks about the wonderful things we enjoy during the Christmas season: family, giving, special dishes and Christmas movies. But ultimately, the intent of the lyrics is to remind us of the big news of Christmas: Jesus – Immanuel, which means “God with us.”
I don’t criticize all the beautiful folkloric Christmas traditions. On the contrary, we love Santa and we even have an elf! I personally think that the sweet celebrations of the season only add to the joy that the birth of our savior brings.
But the truth is, as much as we would like to stay focused on the true meaning of Christmas, it is not always that easy. Every year, it seems as if December becomes more filled with activities. The list of people we exchange gifts with becomes longer. We find ourselves stressed about what to buy, and often mindlessly purchase a gift out of obligation, instead of love.
In the midst of the chaos, I believe the Christmas baby speaks to you and me: “I came to a manger, of all places! It’s not about how expensive your gifts are, or how many are under the tree, but about the love they represent.”
Believe me, I get it – in our excitement and busyness, the holiday season often drives us to become as narrow-minded as the editor that read Orville’s telegram to his sister. We lose sight of the real reason to celebrate.
This Christmas Eve, however, I invite all of us who know the baby in the manger as our Redeemer and Lord to stop a moment and thank God for the event that makes the Wright brothers’ first flight and other major historic events pale in contrast: the birth of our savior. After all, it was not about Santa that the angels sang.It was not about Santa that the angels sang. Click To Tweet
This article was published in Patricia’s column for the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Faith & Value Section on Saturday, December 24th