As soon as the Christmas stockings are hung by the fireplace, our Scotties know something special is coming. 

Several years ago I wrote and illustrated a mostly biographical children’s book, Bernie’s First Christmas. The story opens with Bernie, a rescued Scottie, chasing birds and barking at squirrels. Then one day the Christmas stockings are hung and Lola, the matriarch of the rescued Scottie pack at the time, tells Bernie that those stockings mean that “good dogs” will have lots of toys and treats on Christmas day.

Bernie begins to wonder if he has been a good dog. He thinks, “I wanna do what I wanna do, but I wanna be a good dog too!” As he looks at one occasion after another for which he has been scolded, including digging up the herb garden and chewing on Mommy’s slippers, he soon concludes, “There will be no Christmas for Bernie.” But, of course in the end Mommy says, “Christmas is about Love and we love our Scotties,” as Daddy hands down stockings filled to the brim for each Scottie, including Bernie.

Christmas is many things to many people. Yet the foundation of this holiday is the birth of a baby named Jesus—which is the Aramaic equal to the Hebrew name Joshua, meaning “Yahweh saves”. This baby grew into the man who introduced a fearful and subjugated world to a radical concept. He told people that they didn’t have to spend their lives shrouded in fear. He said that their Creator was Love and if they embraced that Love they would be free of fear and prosper.  

His followers recorded many of the words and miracles he spoke and performed in an effort to help people understand how powerful Love can be. Love is energy, which multiplies rapidly when shared and given away.

Jesus taught that each of us has two powerful forces inside of our mind. The higher mind is Divine Spirit, the limitless power of our Creator’s Love. With love we find strength, forgiveness—for ourselves and others—joy and peace. The lower mind is the manmade ego running on fear, which engenders anger, jealousies, greed, guilt, attack and depression.  Each time we make a decision, we have one of those two forces at the decision’s base. Our life then builds upon each decision’s outcome, so we grow stronger and happier living with Love or weaker and more depressed living in fear.

The story of Adam and Eve tells us that two people lived at peace in a garden filled with everything they needed. They walked and talked with their God in peace and bliss. Then one day they “ate” the symbolic apple. What was that apple? Fear! Read the story again. What happened as soon as they swallowed the apple? They became afraid and ran and hid.  And man has lived in fear ever since.

Many governments and organizations use—and therefore teach—fear as a means of controlling people. Taxes, fines and prison are the most common methods used by governments. Schools use fear by threatening failure or expulsion to force students to learn. Parents use fear by spanking or denying activities to make their children behave. My father used his belt to discipline us. Those severe spankings caused me to form a deep fear and distrust of those who abuse their authority. Now in my seventies, I’m working hard to remember Jesus’s teachings of love and forgiveness. It takes real work to overcome more than seven decades of fear habit. Yet I’m making progress and seeing the benefit. I’m much more at peace using love as my decision base rather than fear.

Jesus came to tell us not to be afraid. The God of Adam and Eve, who gave them everything they needed, is still our Loving God. Most of us have allowed ourselves to be subjugated by “Adam’s fear”, separating us from God’s powerful Love. We can change that. Fear is a choice. Love is a choice. They are both inside of us. We choose which one rules our lives. We can choose to change, if fear has been the driving force. I’ve spoken about habits before in this column. Habits are powerful. They live in our subconscious. We spend a lot of time on autopilot, which means our subconscious minds run most of our lives. If fear has been the main driver, we have made many fear-based decisions limiting our ability to be the best and happiest we can be. 

The Good News is that we can change that today. It takes work because habits take time to change. But if we start today we can build new lives.  If we work on it every day and question the foundation of each decision, making sure Love, not fear is inspiring us, our lives improve as we come out from under the fear shroud. As that change manifests itself we become a new person; some call this being “born again”.

We can thrive. It is not our circumstances that determine our happiness in life. It’s the decisions we make. We can run our lives on Love, the gift that came with the First Christmas, or be controlled by fear which came to humans many millennia ago. Choose Love, forgiveness, caring and helping; and may your Christmas Season be filled with Peace and Joy.

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:10 - NASB