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Beneath the glitter, giving is the true Christmas spirit

Amid the hustle and bustle of Christmas, we strive to remainmindful that the holiday season is a time of giving.

Of course, there is the traditional gift-giving, exchangingpresents with friends and family and watching children’s eyes lightup on Christmas morning as they discover what Santa has left forthem under the tree.

But this year we are reminded that giving is often so muchmore.

As the United States continues to quell hot spots in Iraq andAfghanistan, we must realize that none have been more giving overthe last year than the men and women of our nation’s armed forces -along with their families.

There will be heavy hearts at home in southwest Mississippi thisChristmas as local members of the Army National Guard’s 155thBrigade Combat Team prepares to depart for Iraq.

The BCT, comprising units from Brookhaven, Monticello, McComb,Natchez, Crystal Springs, Tylertown, Prentiss and elsewhere, willplay a key role in ongoing “stability and support operations,”military officials said.

Just this week, families, dignitaries, celebrities and othersgathered at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg to give the men and womenof the 155th an emotional send-off – although their actualdeparture is after the holidays, allowing them to spend Christmasnear loved ones.

Those serving stateside and in nations overseas give so much -of their time, of their talents and of their lives. Theirdedication to our country and its freedom is a gift we cherish andone we can never fully repay.

The troops’ selfless attitude and that of their families, whoendure long periods of separation, is truly a priceless gift.

That gift-giving endures as a Christmas tradition is certainlyno coincidence, for it is a celebration of the birth of JesusChrist – the greatest gift of all time.

Though we often become wrapped up in the commercial, secularaspects of the holiday, we cannot forget the gift of our Father,who sent His Son to save mankind.

Take a few minutes to reflect on the story as told in the bookof Luke, then take time to reflect on its meaning on Christmas andyear-round:

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out adecree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed…

And all went to be taxed, every one into his owncity.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city ofNazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is calledBethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage ofDavid:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great withchild.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days wereaccomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him inswaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was noroom for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in thefield, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the gloryof the Lord shone round about them: and they were soreafraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bringyou good tidings of great joy, which shall be to allpeople.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babewrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of theheavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good willtoward men.”.

There is no better gift.