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Friday, December 31, 2010

Sharing the Season

When the winter holiday season rolls around each year, with it come the complaints about taking Christ out of Christmas, and sneering at the use of the phrase "Happy Holidays" in place of "Merry Christmas."  Some rigid Christians believe this season is strictly for Christians to celebrate.

What is ignored is the fact that this time of year was observed as a special season long before the Year One, and by those who lived far away from Palestine.  Christians adopted the time as fitting to commemorate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, in order to re-order the purpose of this particular season by building upon a familiar practice which preceded that time.  Nothing in our Christian scriptures designates a particular season for that birth.  We cannot pinpoint the exact time of Jesus' birth.  Instead, we used a season observed by those who welcomed the Winter Solstice.  In time, those in far northern territories, whose people had also greeted the return of the sun's light to those dark winter places, were included in the merger of celebrations.  We now have "Yuletide" events, the Yule logs in our fireplaces, and other symbols of light, which have been borrowed from those early times and other beliefs.  We are not diminished by observances of seasons different from those of Christians, even when they fall within similar calendars. 

Thus there is no reason we cannot share this Christmas Yuletide Season with others who are not Christians.  We have borrowed a sacred time from the dark histories of others in order to experience the coming of a New Light into the world, one whom Christians recognize as Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior, and many other designations.  The commercialization of the seasonal holidays cannot take away the significance of this time for those who follow the Christ.  Let those who choose the greeting of Happy Holidays do so without judgment from us.  We are not harmed nor do we lose anything by such a practice.  This time of year is observed by Christians, pagans, atheists, and those of other faiths for various reasons. And to all, we can greet each one of our neighbors appropriately.  Merry Christmas -- Happy Holidays -- Joyous New Year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Season . . . Here Again

Seasons have qualities of stability.  Although they change during a year they remain consistent in their particular meanings.  Autumn signals the end of the Summer season and a time for mellowing and feeling new energies, even as leaves turn colors and fall from trees.  Crisp air for the northern hemisphere is the trademark.  Football and baseball reign over the sports season.  Spring and summer too have their particular characters that delight and deepen our appreciation of what our environment has to offer.  Everything returning to life, the earth warming again, slowly turning from gentle breezes and new blooms to the heat of summer and ocean waves or lakes to enjoy. 

There is one more Season, however, smack in the midst of winter that is one all to itself -- the holiday season that for many is the Christmas Season.  It is a time for hope, for promise, for love of neighbors throughout the world and the longing for peace.  It is preceded by a time of holy waiting that Christians name as Advent.  A waiting time before the birthtime of Jesus the Christ.  How many books, poems, songs, sermons have been created to prepare us for that time each year!  I read this meaningful statement today by John Buchanan, pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago and Editor/Publisher of The Christian Century about this season:  "Christmas tells us that here is one who cares about us and comes to be with us.  The simple story means that in this vast and mysterious universe, in this sometimes frightening world, we are not ever alone." 

Comforting words indeed, but also challenging words.  They mean that in spite of all that might deter us from keeping on with life, there is One who tugs at our spirits, beckoning us to stay on our journeys.  We can't curl up and crawl into a corner somewhere.  So much is at stake still to be accomplished.  So we listen to the words told every year about something so mysterious we call it a miracle, the coming of the Prince of Peace into a world at war somewhere.  If only we could hear it.  The songs, the stories, the quiet gatherings, are what encourage us to keep going.  The Season is a brief one.  The challenge is to honor it past the time of carols and candles and bells and live as if we were always in a holy season of Christmas.