It’s Christmas. I’ve written before about how complicated Christmas can get for a lot of people. I’m one of them. There’s a lot on TV about the “true meaning of Christmas,” and while I’m not exactly sure what it is, I’m pretty sure it’s not covered in its entirety by a Lifetime rom-com. At any rate, I’m not being down on Christmas, just philosophical.
Let me also add right here, there are tenets of other religions I’ve added to my spiritual roster, so I’m not trying to convert anyone. Again, just waxing philosophical.
A few years ago, it started to bother me that I couldn’t get a grip on what everyone was calling the “true meaning of Christmas;” it seemed everyone else had an intimate familiarity with what the “true meaning” was. I felt left out. It often happens that way. If the reincarnationists are right, then I will bet my bottom dollar this is my first life as a human, because a lot of it just doesn’t make sense to me. (Note to self: write post about being a cat in last life for Friday fluff.)
For Christians, we’re supposed to be celebrating the birth of Christ. Now, this is where a lot of theology and other –ologies get in about Messianic prophecies, etc. Note: I’m bypassing all of that. Frankly, for me, that’s not the point.
I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I’ve been fortunate/unfortunate enough to have stared down a pretty ugly abyss and not fallen in. Well, I fell in, but I crawled my way out. I think I’m about three or four feet away now, and sometimes I’m still crawling away. But I can still see that abyss behind me, and some days I’m still scared of it. I established my values and decisions on some pretty flimsy, however culturally pervasive, priorities. I wasn’t successful at it, it nearly killed me, but I kept at it until I had to either stop, or stop. So what happens when you find you’ve just crawled out of the abyss? Or, to abandon the metaphor, found your whole life has been unsuccessfully founded on values you now find disagreeable, or at least unfeasible, and are now dangerous? What do you do with yourself? Where do you go? It’s one thing to figure this out at thirty-two when you’re still cute, but what about when you’re middle aged?
For me, that’s where Christmas comes in. It’s about a day of hope where someone – whether you think He’s a prophet or the Messiah or just a really profoundly wise Dude – is coming who will teach us a new way, point out a new direction. This new way, this new direction gives hope and possibility for people like me – those of us who were lost and confused and tired and miserable. Christ tried to teach about the spiritual journey, the soul’s life beyond the body, what we are as opposed to what we do. In Biblical times, actions were very profound: rituals governed everyone’s behavior on cleanliness, social function, you name it. While I’m sure rituals remained important, when I read the New Testament, what I get is the message that rituals are not the be all and end all of the condition of our souls, as in Matthew 15:1-20. I offer up Matthew 15:10-11:
“understand this: a man is not defiled by what goes into his mouth, but by what comes out of it.” (The New English Bible with Apocrypha, Oxford Study Edition)
For me, Christmas is prelude to Easter. The Man who came and teaches us a new way is possible proves it. Resurrection, for me, has little to do with death. Honestly, the way I figure it, once I’m dead I’m dead and either I won’t know and won’t care or I’ll be better off (see the first post on Universal Redemption). The fact is though, if it isn’t too late to really live after you’re dead, then maybe it’s not to late after you’re forty-five. I’m more concerned with resurrection right here and now: the fact that crawling out of that abyss was possible, and now that I’m out and alive, I can learn and live this new way.