Legislative column

Each year as Christmas approaches, I like to take some time to pause, reflect, and honestly ponder the true meaning of Christmas, as well as take stock of what really matters. Certainly, I enjoy the lighted trees that glisten in the snow, the houses all lit up and adorned in Christmas garlands, the Christmas songs and carolers – and who can resist the cookies and treats that are shared in celebration as folks spread homemade Christmas cheer?

I do think it’s important, though, to remember that those things are only embellishments and to not get so caught up in the merriment that we forget the true meaning of Christmas: to celebrate the birth of our Savior and the gift of eternal life He came to offer us all.

This time last year – in the midst of what is usually such a joyous season – I was mourning the passing of my father. I was uplifted and overwhelmed by the kindness and care extended to me by my friends, family and the constituents of the 33rd Senatorial District. I will be forever grateful for the love and support shown me during that difficult Christmas. It showed me what the spirit of Christmas is all about: love, family, friends, fellowship, service.

This Christmas, I encourage you to be especially thankful for those you hold dear; and to rejoice in your faith. Pray for those less fortunate, look out for those who might be alone this Christmas, and know that every blessing you count is one more than someone else might have. Also, be ever mindful of our servicemen and women, many of whom are deployed and unable to spend Christmas with their families this year. Give thanks for the sacrifices they make to keep our country safe, as well as the sacrifices their families make.

Please consider taking time this season to give back. Perhaps you could volunteer at a food pantry, or visit a veterans or nursing home. These simple gestures have a great impact on those who are lonely or struggling this time of year. They’re also great activities to do as a family, instilling the gift of service in young ones and creating a tradition of returning some of what you’ve been given throughout the year.

I wish you a safe and blessed Christmas season, and a healthy and prosperous 2017.

Mike Cunningham is a Republican member of the Missouri State Senate, representing District 33. Contact him at 573-751-1882 or www.senate.mo.gov/cunningham

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