'Tis Christmas

Christmas Week. Which every year brings a weeping and a wailing and a gnashing of teeth over how to greet people - not to mention the whole idea of giving gifts, receiving gifts, and shopping for gifts - and leaving aside the entire issue of home decor. And rumbling in the basement, at the foundations, you might say, of the entire enterprise and bringing the general confusion to a boil - religion.

Which, of course, has everything to do with Christmas. But not quite (in my interpretation) the way you might think. Nearly everyone in the United States has to deal with Christmas, whether they want to or not. So I thought I would try to put your minds at ease about it.

Because Christmas isn't just for Christians. Never really has been. It's no news to anyone here that it is a holiday that coincides with the winter solstice. Midwinter. The time when the sun rounds the far turn and begins to make its way north again. Nevermind that the sun is doing no such actual thing. Anyone living a certain way north or south of the equator marks the time. One way or another. That Christians and others have appropriated the time for a celebration is no surprise. It's unfortunate that we keep harping on the differences between them, between our concepts of God and his/her existence or relevance, and whether or not we are insulting anyone with a greeting.

This is my latest interpretation of the concept of God. Any God. It is a human construct. It is a construct into which we humans - and I mean every human population the entire world over and throughout history so far as we know - have poured our yearnings, our projections of our best selves, our fear of punishment for those acts which we suspect may be wrongful to ourselves or others, our need for help which we cannot find elsewhere, answers to questions, longing for love and acceptance, a reason to act, a reason to sit quietly, a raison d'etre. And I sincerely believe that that God exists - because that God is Us. What different peoples choose to make of that idea and how they choose to employ it have social and political consequences with which we need to contend from time to time. But those choices do not negate the power of the idea itself.

I was raised Christian. The fact that I have traveled further afield from my roots does not negate that fact. So I continue to say Merry Christmas. Feel free to say anything you like back to me. Happy Hannukah, Happy Holidays, or even Happy Shopping Season. I don't care. As long as we understand that we are wishing each other well, from the best we and the culture in which we were raised have to offer.

Warmer, longer days will come again. Let us rejoice and be glad.