A few Christmas thoughts

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 21, 2016

By Rep. Bradley Byrne

With Christmas fast approaching, I want to take time to reflect on two important thoughts: the need to count our blessings and the importance of sharing those blessings with others.

Last week, I stopped by the WKRG studios in Mobile to donate a few toys to their annual toy drive. I was blown away to see a warehouse packed full of toys that will make their way to children in need. It was a truly heartwarming experience to know so many from Southwest Alabama came together to help spread joy this Christmas season.

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One of my favorite things about Christmas is the spirit of giving. The opportunity to see neighbors helping neighbors and people lending time or money to those they may not even know.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to ring the bell for the Salvation Army in downtown Fairhope. It is always really special to see people – young and old – dropping money in the bucket in an effort to bring a smile to someone else’s face.

You know, the holidays are a fun and exciting time, but for many of us, they can also be a busy and even stressful time of year. Christmas shopping can sneak up on you, family tensions can run high, and work and school demands can increase leading up to Christmas.

I want to encourage all of us to slow down this Christmas, take a moment to reflect on the true reason for the season, spend time with loved ones, and remember our many blessings here in the United States of America.

As we count our blessings and share them with others, I hope you will keep two other groups of people in mind.

I hope you will remember the Christians around the world who face persecution each and every day simply for what they believe. Particularly in the Middle East, Christians are forced to secretly carry out their religious practices for fear of attack or ridicule.

The freedom to freely exercise our religion is something we too often take for granted as Americans, so I hope you will join me in saying a special prayer for those facing religious persecution throughout the world.

I’m also reminded of our military men and women, who are away from their families and loved ones this Christmas. It is because of their service, and the sacrifice of those before them, that we are able to freely celebrate Christmas. In addition to the service members themselves, let us also say a prayer for their families who I know miss them dearly.

These days, as you turn on the television and look at some of the challenges facing the world, it can be easy to feel like evil and darkness is winning. Personally, seeing the many challenges serve as a reminder for me to fight even harder for the values and freedoms we all hold dear throughout my service in Congress.

But, to all of us, the Christmas season should help us remember that, no matter how bad things may seem at times, we are blessed with eternal hope through the birth of Jesus Christ.

So, as I do every Christmas, I take comfort in words written in John 1:5: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

May we always remember those important words of hope.

From my family to yours – Merry Christmas!

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne represents the 1st Congressional District of Alabama, which includes Escambia County.