Thoughts on Christmas

If being a Christian were, say, the same as being a Freudian, Keynesian, Hegelian or Kantian, I could call myself a Christian.   In those cases it simply means ones basic outlook on the world in inspired by and close to that of a great thinker.  It doesn’t mean absolute agreement, nor does it mean one treats the words of the great thinker as infallible and sacred.

However, I do not believe Jesus was a unique son of God, nor do I believe one has to believe that he is in order to have eternal life.  Moreover, I find the idea that a loving God would require belief in a particular story line and person in order to judge to be self-contradictory.  That would not be a loving God.  So in a religious sense, I am not a Christian.  Jesus was for me a wise spiritual teacher, comparable to Gandhi and other spiritual thinkers, not supernatural.

Yet on Christmas, I wholeheartedly agree with this as a day to celebrate the birth and life of Jesus Christ.   First, Christianity is one of the world’s great religions, that should be honored.  Just as wishing a Jew “Happy Hanukkah” is not something one must avoid, wishing a Christian “Merry Christmas” is to show that person respect.  However, for me it goes beyond that — I really believe and respect the fundamental moral principles of Christianity as enunciated in the New Testament by Jesus and Paul.

So to me Christmas is to respect Christianity, show my belief in the fundamental moral principles put forth by the person of Jesus Christ, and to enjoy the spirit of the season: love, goodwill, a desire for peace, kindness to others, joy, and a sense of magic.  It is that time of the year we celebrate the best of humanity, and suspend our disbelief enough to know that there is a power to love and a sense of mystery about the world that we cannot know, but can open our hearts to feel.   And, somehow, I think that spirit transcends both the teacher and the faith he started, and can inspire people of all faiths or secular beliefs.

And so, despite the fact that in a religious sense I am not a Christian, I want to honor these teachings from the Sermon on the Mount which ring true to me, and are the spirit of the teachings of Jesus, a spirit that one can honor and grasp even if one doesn’t believe the story that Jesus is the one true and only son of  God.

Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”   But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.

Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.

Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”    But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.   But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.

Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

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  1. #1 by Lee on December 24, 2008 - 13:20

    Merry Christmas! I am a Unitarian Universalist and your outlook is similar in many many ways to my own. (except that I am really pretty convinced that the birth of Jesus didn’t happen in December!)

  2. #2 by Mike Lovell on December 24, 2008 - 15:37

    “However, I do not believe Jesus was a unique son of God”

    One line of thinking that I have run into, is that, religious or not, Jesus himself could be considered a unique son of God anyways. That Jesus, really showed himself as the next evolution of conciousness in man. That he had evolved from bicameral mindset that most people suffered from, in which they required external authorities (like the church elders) in order to survive, and instead showed people how to make that mental leap and therefore think for oneself, and develop your own leadership, to advance yourself further than previously thought possible. Jaynes had theories along these lines, albeit I don’t know how much he applied to the biblical nature of things.

    Either way….Christmas is a nice time, and many of Jesus’s fundamental teachings should be observed, regardless of your thoughts on any particular religion, as it would only serve to better society for all time.
    Have a great holiday, Scott!

  3. #3 by helenl on December 24, 2008 - 16:13

    Merry Christmas, Scott.

    Destiny

    by Helen Losse

    Who can deny how gently
    tender petals float on the wind?
    Yet each day more flowers fall,

    withered and dying.
    Even the leaves
    remain where they drop.

    Is this not a sign?

    Gone—
    the pinks of summer.

    The wind blows colder now
    and hardly for the better.
    Stiff brown leaves crunch,

    but look—look,

    a Rose of Sharon blossoms
    from a Virgin’s womb.

    And the wonder of it is
    it happened just like that.

    first published in Domicile

  4. #4 by patrice on December 25, 2008 - 02:28

    Beautifully stated, Scott.

  5. #5 by Scott Erb on December 28, 2008 - 03:14

    Helen, thanks for posting that beautiful poem.

    Mike, interesting theory…way back in college I took a world religions class and it fascinated me. It does seem like many (most?) religions have a similar core: this world is not the real world, the real world is the one of the spirit, and the things of the spirit (love, how one treats others, etc.) are more important than the material results in this life. It just gets really hard to see it when caught up in the daily grind, and even harder to live a life based on those ideals. I know that I’ve not been able to.

  6. #6 by Eve on December 30, 2008 - 05:28

    Merry Christmas and a happy new year to you and yours, Scott.

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