Saturday, December 24, 2011

Two 'Truths' about Christmas

One Christmas season I sent out a card titled “The Truth about Christmas.” Its main message was that Christmas is sheer contrivance. The record, including the Bible, doesn’t say when Jesus was born — not the year, not the month, not the day.


Indeed, recounts the card, “in the first two centuries of Christianity, church leaders derided the observation of saints’ and martyrs’ birthdays as pagan.”

There’s more. The screed goes on for three pages in small type. It took until 320 AD for a pope (Julius I) to nail down the date of December 25. Even then, the rituals largely came from pagan observances of the winter solstice.

And then there’s the “commercial juggernaut” of consumption. It’s a relatively new creation from the mid-Nineteenth Century. It began with the exchanging of Christmas Cards. I’m certain that none bore the title “The Truth about Christmas.”

Make of Christmas what you will.

Some, marking the birth of the ‘Prince of Peace,’ will rededicate themselves to peace. It could use it. Therein resides Joy.

Others will use the time to be with family and to celebrate birth, children and rebirth (yes, the days are getting longer...)

Still others will celebrate the message that Jesus brought to the world. Christmas includes reading of the Beatitudes:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven....”

For fun, and for another “truth” about Christmas, I always pull out my slender, well-thumbed copy of Dylan Thomas’ lyrical “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” In his romp through Christmases recalled, the closest Thomas comes to the sacred is on the very last page.

He describes himself as a child, stuffed on Christmas feasting, visions and laughter. And then, it is time for bed.

“Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steadily falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness and then I slept.”

Softly, then, to sleeping children everywhere, an Alleluia lullaby and a Christmas Amen...

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

More still than "still"

Four options surfaced in the silence of today’s worship at our Quaker meetinghouse.

First a definition:

“What is,” as used here, is “the All,” “God,” “Spirit,” “The One.”

"What is" has many, many names, none of which does, nor can do, “what is” justice.

Consider: It even includes "what is NOT."

The options:

• We — you and I — are part of “what is,” part of “God,” “Spirit” etc. We are not separate. Our egos, while useful in our brief lives, are a small and insignificant part of “what is.”

• “What is” is within us ... and everything else. As Quakers say, “There is that of God within each of us.” Question: is ego essential to this option?

• Both 1. and 2 are true. Can we hold these two options as one or are they contradictory? Can a contradiction also be true? Is it simply part of "what is"?

• "What is" is beyond words. It resides in silence....beyond “wholes” and “parts” ... beyond “within” and “with-out” — beyond “us” and the words “what is.”

Be still, I said in the silence — even more still than “still.”

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