As a non-Christian, why do I celebrate Christmas? Is it the opportunity for lavish gifts and unmitigated weight gain?
I’ll admit, it’s very easy for me to slip into frantic hustle and bustle. It’s fun buying presents for people I like and my children are among the people I like most.
However, I’d like to think that Christmas can be more than that.
Jesus for a non-Christian
I’ve heard reasons to sneer at Christmas from some of my atheist friends –
- Christmas was stolen from the pagans – it’s a celebration of the winter solstice.
- We don’t know when Jesus was born.
- And besides, it probably wasn’t snowing.
- Angels? Immaculate conception?
These sorts of arguments miss the larger point of the holiday.
2,000 years ago, a baby was born who would grow up to change the world, despite every reason he shouldn’t succeed. Two of these stand out.
- He would have been considered a bastard by his tribe – a serious thing 2,000 years ago; and,
- He was the member of a race of people that was suppressed by Roman military dictatorship.
In spite of what must have been a difficult childhood and an environment filled with angry prophets, he taught a message of compassion that we can still read today.
This is worthy of celebration. Anyone that can craft a message that lasts 2,000 years – without the benefit of computers, printing technology or even cassette tapes – deserves our respect and admiration.
We can all work towards living a life that inspires others in a way that endures.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the “twerk” of the moment.
There were scandals 2,000 years ago, too; and I’m sure they rocked the village for a while and seemed very important at the time. The scandals of those days ran their course and have long disappeared. What of the messages we give each other on a daily basis? Will they be around in 2,000 years? Can we work to make our own communication more valuable and not so “in the moment?” Can we ease ourselves toward causing our own message rather than reacting to the messages of the media and gossip rags? The Buddhists describe this as “mindfulness,” which is the action of remaining cognizant of the things we do and say.
Christmas is also a chance to pause and be thankful for our friends. There is much joy in this, waiting to be unleashed.
James Schall describes friendship as “the core of human or divine reality.”
If this is true, and I believe it is, then those moments in which we pause to acknowledge our friends are much more important than many of the things that fill our days.
Aren’t the best Christmas gifts the ones that acknowledge some part of our beingness? It doesn’t really matter what they cost or whether they were part of a gift exchange. When someone “gets” us, their gifts are meaningful. We feel good and, as time passes, we remember those gifts and the friendships that they acknowledge.
Once again, Christmas becomes a holiday that celebrates a lasting and joyful result – our ability to create friendships that extend beyond the momentary upsets and anxieties but endure into the future.
Thank you for being my friend.
And Merry Christmas.