Tuesday, November 21, 2017

On Christmas

Before I begin, it is important to say that I am not, nor have I ever considered myself a Christian by the basic definitions of that faith. I do not believe that Jesus died for my sins, I do not believe that I have to be baptized to cleanse me of my sins. I do however, believe that there are some great tenants of that faith and people should be kind to each other, give to charity, and do good, though this is hardly unique to just this faith.

Christmas to me is special. No, I do not believe that it is the birthday of our lord and savior, but I also do not believe that all that it can be is about is the celebration of the birth of the central figure in this faith. (Jesus was not born in December if the books talking about his birth are to be understood as read.)

So what does Christmas mean to me as a non-christian?
Christmas is about coming together as friends and family. It happens around, the time of the shortest day of the year (at least in the northern hemisphere). It is a time to gather, and enjoy the company of friends and family. It is a time when we celebrate hope, and wonder and Joy. On the shortest day of the year, we celebrate that the sun, (son?) is born and we see longer and longer days after it. If things made sense, it would be the beginning of the year (It is pretty close).

Do I have a Christmas tree? I do. It is a tradition, that I enjoy and has as much to do about the birth of Jesus as anything else we do. I love Christmas Carols not because I believe that Christ is born, and so we are saved, but because of the hope and joy in the songs, in many ways it is about the rebirth of hope on (or near) the longest night of the year.
I give gifts because I enjoy sharing with others and it is one way of saying that I care about them, Christmas is a great time to do that.

I believe that this holiday, as it is, or can be, celebrated is more than just a Christian thing. It is about coming together as a people, and for at least a time, being one people. I do not do black Friday sales on Thursday night because I do not like seeing the ugliness, greed and aggression in people. That to me not what the holiday is about. It is not about getting the biggest presents, maybe because most of the time I try to keep Christmas small. If there is something big that we want or need through the year, we get or do it. Christmas is about friends and family, and enjoying each others company. Not just about getting the biggest newest things, at least I think so.

I have been known to light a Hanukkah candle or 2. Not because I believe in the Jewish faith, but because it is one way that we celebrate the light in the darkness. There is beauty in all faiths, if you are willing to look for them. It may not be mine, but if it brings you joy and does not tear down others, I think that is what the world needs more of. Christmas is a great time to celebrate our brotherhood as a family of people, each doing that best that they can to get by. What the world needs is more of us helping each other. Kindness does not need to have a great cost, and if it brings us together, maybe we can see each other better, and maybe get more things done. 

Something that strikes me particularly hard about Christmas is a line from John Denver and The Muppet Christmas song "Alfie the Christmas tree"

Oh, Alfie believed in Christmas all right, he was full of Christmas cheer.
All of each and every day and all throughout the year.

To him it was more than a special time much more than a special day,
It was more than a beautiful story. it was a special kind of way.

You see, some folks have never heard a jingle bell ring,
And they've never heard of Santa Claus.
They've never heard the story of the Son of God. And that made Alfie pause.

Did that mean that they'd never know of peace on earth
or the brotherhood of man?
Or know how to love, or know how to give? If they can't, no one can.
You see, life is a very special kind of thing, not just for a chosen few.
But for each and every living breathing thing. Not just me and you.

So in your Christmas prayers this year, Alfie asked me if I'd ask you
to say a prayer for the wind, and the water, and the wood,
and those who live there, too.

I do not consider myself a Christian, but I do believe that you can be a good person no matter what your faith, (If any at all). If I see you on the street and you say Merry Christmas I will say it back. If not I may say Happy Holidays because I like to include those people who celebrate winter holidays in different ways than I do, and I like to include New Years in that, rather than JUST Christmas.