My heart is in many different places on Christmas. It is joyful and playful, but also seized by a sliver of solemnity. A still silence that bows to some majesty that has either been forced upon me from outside myself, or one that is innate.
I try to grasp why, or find the true source of it, but come up incomplete.
Of course, I consider the birth of Christ – the celebration of a transcendental Son of God who came to Earth to absolve our sin and bear the ultimate sacrifice.
And of Yule and the Solstice, which celebrate the wheel of the season turning to the light and the end of the ever-darkening nights.
And of the coming together of family and friends, of food and drink, and gift giving and merriment. The child-like wonderment and excitement. None of these seems to fit the bill alone – but together, they start to build a clearer picture…
The “spirit of Christmas” and the “spirit of Christ” are imbued in this lovely holiday, but it doesn’t escape me that the actual birthdate of Christ is contested, as it should be when we travel back so far in time. December 25th also happily coincides with the Roman birthday of the Sun God, or Saturnalia. I read recently that the Roman Emperor Constantine was known to believe that Jesus Christ was the second coming of the Roman Sun God, so he conveniently interwove this Roman holiday into the Jesus canon to effectively combine the two and create more streamlined merriment in the empire, rather than have competing religious sects celebrate disconnectedly. More synchronized merriment meant a more synchronized society, right?
In this way, it feels a little hollow to be celebrating the birthday of Christ on a day chosen more to foster conformity than to celebrate a great gift to humanity.
Throw in the Solstice celebrations and the carryovers from Yule celebrations in northern Europe and you have what feels like a very piecemeal holiday. A holiday that is cobbled together from all sorts of traditions and faiths and regions of the world, to be celebrated at the same time, for synchronicity-sake.
Then throw in the consumerism – ugh! – and much of the magic of any of these things is likely to feel shortsighted.
But perhaps we find congruity in the weird oneness of it all. All of these things to be celebrated and toasted at the same time… Together, they hold more power?
Sometimes when I consider all these different elements in the mix during the holiday season, I can’t help but smirk or laugh at the solemn Christmas services, or of Christians who think there is a war to destroy the Christ in CHRISTmas. I appreciate the wonder and awe of the season and the coming together of family and friends, and even the spirit of Christ that we are celebrating, but given the Frankenstein-like nature of it all, why take it so seriously?
This year I am seeing this all through new, curious eyes. The eyes of my daughter. What is the true meaning of Christmas? Where does this unmistakable solemnity emerge from?
All these different elements combined?
Or perhaps… somewhere deeper?
When I consider how to explain that we are celebrating Jesus’s disputed birthday, and essentially (from a Christian standpoint) the starting point of redemption… I wonder how to add some additional spiritual background so that the holiday is not fixated on just materialistic components or the appropriated combination of our religious ancestries – although this is great context.
The trees and decoration and Santa and Yule and the Birthday of Jesus and Winter Solstice are not necessary components to celebrate our redemption and holiness.
They are just reminders.
Elements that enrich and add to the human experience of the holiday.
Deepen the tapestry.
I think it possible that the real redemption, the real holiness we are striving to celebrate, is our inner redemption. The redemption of our innocent nature that transcends and yet is contained at our core. Our child-like wonder.
We are all sheep in need of herding, and we need to take the shepard-ing seriously. Solemnly.
We are all children, after all.
Whatever you celebrate or don’t celebrate this holiday season, I wish you much love and peace on your inner redemptive journey – wherever you find it.
Cheers, Love and Merry Christmas.