Christmas is right around the corner. Ever notice life seems to speed up as we age? December used to drag on forever, agonizing second by agonizing second until Christmas Eve and now it feels like Black Friday morphs into Christmas Eve with nothing in between. I’m thinking about putting up the Christmas tree next year on Halloween to get a jump on December. Whoever came up with the seasonal tree idea is brilliant; you know, the ones people leave up year round and decorate according to the holiday or season. Christmas may be out of vogue by next year anyway unless Santa leaves anti-sensitivity beanies under the “holiday trees” for those who are offended by everything and anything in life these days. Seriously, is there so little of import in the world we must debate lyrics of Christmas songs? I don’t mean to offend those who will be offended no matter what I say, but why pick on Rudolf? I’m offended they are offended, and besides, isn’t Christmas about greed on the heels of Thanksgiving when we offered gratitude for all we have been given?
Despite my spiritual journey detour away from organized religion, I do like the idea of candlelight services, Christmas pageants, and nativity scenes, live or otherwise. Maybe they are just reminders of simpler times. I have long since abandoned the traditional story of a virgin birth, no room at the Inn, shepherds, and Wise Men bearing gifts from distant lands. Oh, there may be a thread of truth woven throughout an otherwise extraordinary account of events, but let’s face it, most of our traditional Christmas celebrations are repurposed pagan holiday rituals. It wasn’t until the 4th century ‘Christmas’ was introduced into Christianity, anyway. But, none of that really matters; when we take a step back from the traditional Christmas story most of us grew up with we can appreciate the valuable life lessons we can use on our spiritual journeys.
Let’s say for the sake of argument and logical thinking, there wasn’t an actual virgin birth, but Joseph did the right thing by Mary sparing her the embarrassment and stoning she would have received thanks to the cultural norms of the day. Life lesson # 1; selflessness. Every father and mother raising children, not of their flesh, but choosing to love others as their own are following in the footsteps of Joseph. I believe that to be a Christmas miracle many families live every day.
The no-room-at-the-inn thing is harsh given it was winter, or so the story goes, but the little soon-to-be-family had shelter and warmth compliments of a stable and animals for which they were grateful. Life lesson # 2; gratitude no matter how humble the accommodations or start in life. Many of us had very humble beginnings, but it’s the gift of who we are that matters to the world.
Next up the three Wise Men from the Orient bearing gifts, according to the song. Throughout my church years I heard various explanations for their role and gifts, but suffice it to say these three astrologers showed up with some pretty lavish gifts like gold and spices of great worth. Did the little family scratch their heads a bit wondering what they were to do with gold, frankincense, and myrrh? It’s wasn’t long and the new family found out the gifts would serve them well when they had to escape to Egypt under dark of night. The timeline doesn’t actually make any sense, but that’s not the point. Life lesson # 3; God provides from the abundance of the Universe and answers every prayer. Not all prayers are answered in the way we would like or expect but answered nonetheless. Ever notice while we worry about money from month to month we seem to get to the end of each pay period with a few dollars still left in the bank account, or an unexpected check arrives enough to cover an unexpected bill? I’ve been hearing quite a bit lately about bridges where people tend to go to end their lives only to find notes of encouragement that give those who have lost hope a reason to live. God provides when we open our minds to receive.
An actual account of events or not, I believe God donned the clothes of humanity and came to earth to experience being human, and to teach any with ears to hear the wisdom and power of the Universe are within each of us. Organized religion packaged it to suit its purposes and took a bit of poetic license in its telling, but the point of the “Christmas” story is believing we are extensions of the Divine, we have a purpose and are not a random collection of cells, and we need not look outside of ourselves for the answers to the hard questions. For those who choose to practice the doctrines of organized religions and those who choose a different path, the message is the same; live peacefully and lovingly and practice gratitude always. The Grinch said it a little differently, but I believe he had the same message; beyond the packages and bows, perhaps Christmas means a little bit more…..