I take no credit for the following words, I offer them in the belief that they capture the mystical spirit of this emerging season that we call Christmas.

Christmas is a festival of the birthday of Jesus.

No one knows at what time of the year Jesus was born. Long after his death, when stories of his birth were collected and written down and the growing Christian church wanted to celebrate his birthday, the church fathers wisely decreed that it should be at the time of the most beloved and universal festival in the experience of people the world over - the midwinter celebrations, the festivals of light.

So, to the old festivals were added the new celebrations which centered around the Christmas story of the child born in a manger, whom the wisest men visited and about whom all the hosts of heaven sang. Stories gathered from many times and many places and told and retold in story and in song and in poetry, each added its magic to the meanings of Christmas.

Yearly, at this time, we turn again to hope in a time of darkness, to the old hope of men in a world of terror and tumult for peace on earth in some far day, to men of good will, and of the importance and promise of every child who is born into the world.

Christmas is a festival of midwinter.

Since the dawn of time, men have celebrated the longest night of the year with light and fire and thanksgiving, for they have learned that the darkest and longest night marks the turn of the year, the time when the sun, giver of warmth and light, turns back from death and grows strong again.

The turning of the year is a promise of renewing life. The sun will climb the heavens again and the darkness will be pushed back each day.

Men will walk again on the greening earth. The shoot will burst from the seed and the young will be brought forth from the womb. In the midst of winter, the promise is given of the summer season. In the midst of darkness comes the assurance of the light.

Christmas is a festival of joy.

It is a time of family feasting and family fun, of singing and visits, of Christmas trees and lighted houses, of stockings and presents, of fires and candles, of stories of a tiny child in a manger - all the bright heritage which has come down to us as members of the human family.

The joy of Christmas belongs to those who have vision enough to seek a guiding star in the dark mystery which girdles the earth.

The joy of Christmas belongs to those who, in the midst of darkness, have lighted candles in the night.

For each of us on this globe, there is a desert to travel as did the Wise Men, a star to discover as they did discover, and a being within ourselves to bring to life with the same bright promise as was the Christ child.

May you sustain the spirit of this season within you always.