Christmas is the excitement and joy of children opening presents. Maybe I’ve gotten too cynical in my old age for the peace on Earth, good will toward men message anymore. Then again, you rarely see that message these days. It’s all about how much money the retailers make between Thanksgiving and New Years. Everyone bows down and prays to the Holy Bottom Line and the Almighty Dollar.
Christmas has become so secular and commercial since I was a kid. I remember the excitement and anticipation of opening presents on Christmas morning but I also remember always being aware of the deeper meaning of the holiday; it was everywhere. These days you only see Nativity scenes outside of churches and even that has become a rarity. It’s not politically correct, someone might be offended.
When I was in grammar school, we had a Christmas pageant every year and each class would get up on a makeshift stage in the gym and sing Christmas carols for our parents. Although I dreaded getting up on the stage in front of everyone, I still fondly remember those days. When my kids were in school, they still had Christmas programs. I don’t know if public schools still have them but I kind of doubt it. It isn’t politically correct and it might violate the separation of church and state. We don’t want to take the chance we might offend non-Christians.
Growing up, religion didn’t play a major part in my upbringing. I remember Vacation Bible School at the Baptist Church downtown and as a teen, I occasionally attended church services with my girlfriend. I think my sister put it best when asked about our religion. She’d tell people we were “non-church goers.” But despite not having much of a religious upbringing and not being particularly religious, I was never offended by someone else’s religious beliefs. Even if I didn’t understand their beliefs, I respected them and would try to learn more about them.
I think that perhaps by not belonging to a particular church and being exposed to a variety of beliefs and interpretations, I learned religious tolerance, which is something you rarely find among organized churches. Who’s to say which religion has it right? I’ve always thought it ironic that while all the various Christian denominations, the various sects of Judaism, and the Islamic groups worship the god of Abraham, they violently disagree on how to worship Him. They all believe their religion is the only path to Heaven.
I don’t see it that way. Man is not capable of knowing the true nature of God. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve did not eat all of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; they only got a small taste. Therefore, Man’s knowledge of the nature of God is very limited. We can only speculate about what God wants from us and how He wants us to live. We can’t, with any certainty, know. It’s jut not within our intellectual grasp.
The early Church decreed the 25th of December to be the day Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. Although it’s improbable that Jesus was actually born in late December, we should still remember his teachings and his message of peace, love, and tolerance. Whether we are Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, or whatever, it’s the message that matters, a message that should be remembered every day of the year, not just on December 25th.
Merry Christmas to all. Let there be peace on Earth and good will to all men. Amen.
Pastor, the Temple of the Agnostic Savior