On Christmas Day someone will be born. On Christmas Day someone will die. On Christmas Day someone will be happy. On Christmas Day someone will be depressed. On Christmas Day someone will want for nothing. On Christmas Day someone will hunger for food and a home. On Christmas Day someone will find peace. On Christmas Day someone will experience war.
We spend much of December, and even November these days, preparing for a celebration of the season with family and friends, often forgetting that on this most happy day there will always be people who are suffering for one reason or another. Christmas as we know it in the modern world often strays away from the reason of the season with its conspicuous consumption of food, drink and material riches.
There is nothing terribly wrong with treating ourselves and those we love to feasts and gifts, but when we lose sight of why we have such a holiday to begin with, our efforts feel somewhat out of sync, devoid of a true kind of joy. Like Sparky Griswold we focus on all the wrong things to make our Christmases bright. Love is what should be our focus, love with a kind heart and compassion and sharing.
Not everyone is religious or even of the same religious beliefs. We each find spiritual nourishment in very personal ways. Some don’t even need a church or particular beliefs to feel a connection to something bigger than themselves. Each of us require ways of explaining the world and the things that seem to so serendipitously happen to us. Our human need is to know the why of the events and stories that make up the sum total of our lives.
The greatest percent of religious believers are followers of Christianity. They believe that Jesus was sent to the world by God as a savior for all of us. We don’t know the exact date on which he was born nor do we have photographs or paintings of him that were made while he was alive. What we do have are the gospels that tell his stories and report his preaching, which is a beautiful way of living even if one does not believe that He was the son of God. He gave the world a blueprint of how to treat one another with both His words and His example. It’s easy to follow because it always focuses on love. His only commandment is that we love one another as deeply as we would love ourselves.
His is a beautiful philosophy, but not nearly as easy to follow as it may at first seem. Each of us is imperfect. We may have the best of intentions, but end up getting angry, hurting someone with our words or even with violence. We become jealous and selfish even as we try so very hard to be the best versions of ourselves. When we walk past a fellow human whom Jesus would have helped, we know that Jesus is willing to forgive us for our many sins against humanity. As long as we are genuinely contrite and willing to begin anew to be the people that He knows we can and should be we can find reconciliation.
The words of Jesus and his parables do not require that we follow sets of rules created by humans attempting to interpret His instructions for us. In fact, the evidence in the gospels is that Jesus revolted against any laws that restricted our ability to help the sick, the poor, the suffering. It is humans who dictate behaviors that restrict our us from being just and fair and kind. Jesus did not judge as much as He simply loved. Over and over again he ignored laws that might have prevented Him from saving someone in need.
I think that even non-Christians and those who scoff at the idea of God, should read about this Jesus who really did live and walk on this earth. Everyone should learn from him. No church is required to emulate Him or to celebrate His teachings. If we focus on trying to be more like Him during these holidays, I think we might feel a calm and brightness about ourselves and the future that quenches our thirst to understand why we are here.
A friend recently related an incident that occurred on a day when her throat was scratchy and things were not going very well. She ordered take out pizza for dinner and scurried to pick it up as soon as she got a notice on her phone that it was ready. When she arrived the place was in a state of chaos and her pizza was not yet prepared. She felt like complaining but something inside her heart told her to be kind. She thought of how this is a busy season, a time when things can go wrong even with the best of plans. Instead of fussing at the woman who gave her the bad news that she would have to wait, she smiled and demonstrated patience. It was then that the woman revealed that the place had just been robbed and that everyone was quite shaken. She thanked my friend for being so understanding.
We have no idea what anyone is facing during the Christmas holidays or at any time for that matter. We would do well to be at our best, to demonstrate compassion and kindness. Our holidays will be so much better when we slow down enough to simply love the people around us with all of our hearts. That is what the life of Jesus was all about and what he wants our lives to be about as well. Whether you call in Christmas or the holidays it all about love actually.