Minister’s Musings Among the Mountains – Week of December 4

“Why Bother to Celebrate Christmas?”

Why, indeed. Most Unitarian Universalists find ourselves unsure as to why we would bother to have Christmas Eve services if we don’t believe in Christ Jesus. The commercialism is appalling; the recorded Christmas music at malls, elevators and stores can be grating after a while. Credit cards and bank accounts magically rise and fall depending on shopping. We may not look forward to family gatherings around Christmas and New Years because of old dramas and sorrows.

Why bother to celebrate Christmas with all that baggage? One answer could be “we’ve always done it…” and that makes good sense. Christmas – at its best – can be a season of generosity and gratitude for all we have and what we can give to others as gifts. Christmas at its worse? See above.

Nonetheless, Christmas ought to be celebrated as a renewal of hope for us all. Christmas isn’t about the cards or travels to see loved ones. It’s not about who has the biggest Christmas tree or the most lights.

No, it’s a reminder that against all odds of probability some 2,000 years ago a baby was born who changed the world and whose message continues to be held up today.

It doesn’t end there. Some religious traditions say that baby Jesus was the son of God and that his return will usher in a long peace after a terrible war. Other religious traditions like ours believe Jesus and the other great teachers were human beings who rose above their limitations.

What do we Unitarian Universalists believe about baby Jesus? We’re likely all over the map about Jesus but we probably can agree that we wouldn’t gather in congregations, have a commitment to social justice or even BE UU’s had it not been for Jesus. Where I think we differ from more traditional Christian communities is that we believe every child is a manifestation of Jesus and his ministry in the world. Every child (including each of us from our own lives) carries the potential to carry others to freedom…freedom from want and injustice; freedom to awaken to our full potential as human beings; freedom to carry on a responsible search for truth and meaning.

Christmas is a hope. It’s a reminder that we can rise above our politics and arguments to see Love in its sometimes astonishingly unexpected reality.

This week I saw Christmas in person. I was at QFC and was in the checkout lane. A cart in front of me had an infant looking around curiously. The little one looked at me and a broad smile came my way. I couldn’t help but smile back. Chubby hands waved in delight. Laughing joyful sounds came from their mouth.

The parent attempted to apologize to me for the baby’s attention. I told them that I was not upset; in fact, I was honored because I realized that I’d met Christmas in person. This child in all their delight and innocence told me that the hope of Christmas is still alive and well.

And that’s why I choose to celebrate Christmas.

May we all do the same in whatever fashion works best for us.

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