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Christmas amidst life’s conflict

We hear it everywhere these days. Once in a while, we who call ourselves Christians will broaden the greeting to acknowledge our Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist friends and say, ‘Happy Holidays.’
I’m a Christian and most often use the terms of my religion and observe with extra enthusiasm those traditions of my Protestant church. Probably without thinking, I assume my beliefs are commonly shared by most people and, therefore, speak accordingly. But, the more we are drawn into the broader world, through technology and actual face-to-face activities, the more we realize that there are a whole lot of ways of observing man’s connection to a Supreme Being.
The world is a complex place, and to simplify anything is risky. As people try to describe happenings, the facts and figures often become a bit varied. So, I don’t get very tied up with details or literal interpretations of writings or practices. I try to relate the essence of a past experience with something we are doing today.
Take the greeting ‘Merry Christmas,’ for instance. It implies a carefree holiday with jubilation everywhere. The first Christmas as seen on greeting cards looks so serene with friendly angels, warm straw and a feeling of calm.
Give me a break. Mary and Joseph had come miles to pay taxes; no one does that in a happy mood. Mary, who was about to have a baby, was seated on a small donkey. For all you men, let me tell you, that must have been miserable. I know Mary was a saint, but that is still a bumpy ride. Or, have you ever had to wait in the hallway at a hospital because no bed was available? Well, the town of Bethlehem, they say, was so crowded with unhappy taxpayers that the couple was sent to an animal shelter out back of the inn. Now, how glamorous is that?!
The whole message of Christmas, for me, is one of hope out of human suffering: right in the middle of a big mess, joy in an unexpected place with no explanation other than divine intervention. I have had those times of miracles and I hope you have, too: the song of peace amidst the disharmony of different people with different agendas, different attitudes and different beliefs.
This is one mixed-up world ‘ not just in 2009, as it always has been and probably always will be. And as the Christmas carols say, ‘We need a little Christmas right this very minute. Candles in the window. Carols at the spinet.’
So, if right now you are a worn-out shopper, an out-of-work parent or a misunderstood teenager, welcome to Christmas no matter what church you do or don’t go to. The message of Christmas is a universal calling. There is hope amidst conflict; there is a purpose to life; there is a Supreme Being that loves you and helps out; there are people who love you and want to be a part of your life. In ‘churchy’ terms, I call this reconciliation, and that is the central theme that we all hearken to this holiday season.
It is easy to get drawn into the marketing baloney that everything must be picture-perfect or we have not experienced the joy of Christmas. On the contrary, it is amidst discord, hurt and everyday chores that the observance of Christmas finds meaning. Christmas is no perfect ‘open beautiful wanted presents and do no work’ kind of day. The worth of Christmas happens when a tire blows out on the car, the food stamps get lost or the kids become sick. Its value is in our real lives, not set-apart moments of fantasy.
If life was always a smooth-going cake walk, we probably wouldn’t need the reminders of Christmas. Let us unite in our oneness of being human and rejoice in the presence of a spirit that is eternal, loving and absolute.