You may say, “Merry Christmas.” That’s great! I celebrate the fun American holiday too. Perhaps you say, “Happy Hanukkah” as well. Me too. I have come to enjoy the epic Maccabees story along with the lighting of the menorah, spinning of the dreidel and the hope that comes with light shining in the darkness. Maybe you are more into the Winter Solstice as one who is in touch with the earth. Fantastic! Some friends and I took part in a Solstice celebration last year (while partaking in the Eucharist/ Communion in the midst of the gathering), which was incredibly meaningful and spiritual on so many levels.
Did you know there are thee other religious holidays this time of year?
We’ve got Kwanzaa, an African American holiday that emphasizes family and cultural heritage, Bodhi Day, a holiday that commemorates the Buddha’s enlightenment, and Mawlid an-Abi, an Islamic holiday observing the birthday of the prophet Mohammed.
"Happy Holidays" is totally fine with me.
Last night I was sitting at the pub, a weekly Thursday tradition, with spiritual, religious and nonreligious friends discussing theology over local craft beer. Each table group regularly consists of 8 - 10 participants from a wide range of beliefs, ages and lifestyles. While we have Christians – of every kind – every night, we are not a “Christian” community. We value friendships beyond one tribe, and we encourage everyone to listen well.
As we were hashing out the ins and outs of Hanukkah, politics, the oppressed and some family traditions of Christmas and Advent, I came to realize that while everyone at our specific table (Christian and Jew) celebrates the holidays in different ways, we are eager to be more intentional to love our families, stand in solidarity with the disenfranchised and poor, and to find a better rhythm this time of year that creates healing and wholeness in our world(s).
I glanced over at a table next to ours – Christian, agnostic, Buddhist and Hindu - and saw other friends having the same conversation, but with a very different dynamic. That’s the beauty of each night we gather; every table is always unique. It’s like going to a brewery and drinking a flight of samples. Not all beer is the same, and not every brewery brews identical beer.
***Newsflash*** We – westerners – live in a pluralistic world; even those who claim to be Christian and celebrate Christmas. Everyone does it differently, and nobody has the market on how to do it “right,” per se. However, we can glean from one another, and we can come to a better respectful understanding of how other friends, neighbors and families do life this time of year.
As a Jesus follower, I celebrate the Christmas season, even though I know its origins are “pagan,” so to speak. I partake in Hanukkah activities as well since Jesus was Jewish. Regardless of which holiday is the “best” holiday, I am more interested in the spirit of each holiday. Christmas is about the incarnation: God in flesh. This is critical to the holiday season - each season! Since Jesus commands his followers to love their neighbor, I think the best way to love one’s neighbor is to listen to them.
Why do they do A, B or C?
What’s important to them?
What aspects of their tradition bring beauty, goodness and joy to our broken world in need of hope?
How can we learn from one another rather than fighting over pointless, nauseating and ridiculous tribal battles?
I don’t need people in our country to say, “Merry Christmas!” That’s not interesting to me.
I’m more fascinated in the world looking more like Jesus, the one who shows the Way of love and light to a world living in darkness. This is the spirit of Christmas, and this is incarnation.
If another holiday unveils hope, I’m all about it.
If another holiday brings forth shalom, who’s going to argue with that brilliance?
If someone is intrigued with a holiday that helps the poor and broken hearted, let’s do it!
So, Merry Christmas (Dec. 25)!
Happy Kwanzaa (Dec. 26-Jan.1)!
Happy Hanukkah (Dec. 24-Jan.1)!
Happy Mawlid an-Nabi (Dec. 11-12)!
Happy Yule – Winter Solstice (Dec. 21)!
Happy Bodhi Day (Jan. 5)!
Happy Holidays to all!