SINCE THIS IS THE LAST Sunday before Christmas, and since both Sunday and Christmas are special to Christians, I thought it would be a good time to comment on the whole "War on Christmas" nonsense that fills the airways at this time of year.
Just for the record, I'm really fond of sleigh bells ringing, lit up trees, gift-giving, family gatherings, and even Santa Claus.
I'm not so much in favor of people lying to their children, but that point stands on its own, and really has nothing specific to do with Santa.
I'm even in favor of the story about the baby in the manger, except for a few points, which I'll get to later. It's very touching and magical.
But modern-day American Christians, especially the ones who go around screaming about a "War on Christmas" are missing the true meaning of the holiday, in several ways:
- First of all, I don't play favorites.
I'm the ground of all being—not just yours.
The world doesn't spin around the sun in a way that creates a winter solstice just so one human religion can...
- Pretend its founder was born on that day when he wasn't,
- Claim that a traditional time of celebration throughout human history is exclusively theirs,
- Claim that any other celebration by anyone else is illegitimate, and
- Label the attempts by ordinary people of good will to recognize that there are other traditions in the world and that they have a right to be there as some kind of "War" on the season.
People were celebrating this season before you moved your holiday to it, and they have a right to be here, just like you.
So get off your high horse.
If you want to wish someone a "Merry Christmas" go right ahead.
If you want to be rude, you can even wish a Merry Christmas to people you know celebrate Chanukah, or Kwanzaa, or Yule, or Mummer's day, or Soyal, or Brumalia.
I'm not going to stop you.
But if you're going to insist that there's something wrong with other people being more polite than you are, please don't insist in my name.
- Secondly, I do follow the twists and turns of human theology—sort of the way a quantum physicist might take an interest in the history of alchemy.
So I'm conversant with the whole Christian idea that Jesus was my child.
If the idea were left firmly metaphorical I wouldn't mind it at all.
In fact, I would find it a charming expression of the deeper truth.
But I think that some of this over-possessiveness of the solstice season is partly rooted in the rather repulsive idea that I somehow literally forced myself on Mary.
It doesn't make it any nicer that she is supposed to have acquiesced out of obedience, or that I was supposed to have accomplished the feat in some supernatural way.
It never happened. And, frankly, I resent the insinuation.
I won't go into what did happen—that's Mary's business, and Joseph's.
I'll just say that there was absolutely nothing wrong with what did happen, and they had nothing to be ashamed of.
The whole thing is just another example of the way people manage to ignore a deeper truth by taking a metaphor literally.
If you're interested in that deeper truth, all you have to do is read your Bible.
Carl Reiner got it right, from a secular point of view, but Jesus was quite clear on this point as well, and also completely correct.
He taught every one of his followers to call God "father". And when the Pharisees criticized him for claiming divinity, he defended himself by citing historic precedents of other humans being called "sons of God".
His point, which permeated his entire teaching, was that all humans were both divine and royal. He was just one example of a general truth.
I like that.
It's quite true that each of you is, in a subtle but very real sense, my incarnation, and it works very nicely within the tradition Jesus spoke from, as well.
I particularly like the way Jesus used it to turn the whole hierarchy thing upside down.
If everyone is a king, and a child of God, then no one has a right to rule anyone else or lay guilt trips on them.
- So, finally, if you really follow Jesus, and you want to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, remember that that baby in the manger symbolizes all children, and the child in each of you.
Every one of you is divine royalty, no matter how lowly your birth.
You should celebrate that.
You should celebrate the fact that you are all part of me, and of this great dance which is the universe.
You should celebrate the fact that you, and your neighbor, are both part of that great dance, which includes the way the earth spins around the sun, and creates the winter solstice.
And you should celebrate the fact that you both have a right to be here, that you both have a right to celebrate, and that you both have the right to celebrate in your own ways.
Be happy. Be joyous. Encourage and respect each other.
Have good will toward each other.
That's the real meaning of the season—whatever you call it.
The Ground of All Being