Monday, December 13, 2010

The Spirit of Christmas

Christmas is a winter celebration of human values, warmth, and beauty; a time to come together and keep the gloom of winter at bay.  And what a mixed bag it is!  If any seasonal tradition is a good example of ecumenism, Christmas is it.  Half pagan winter solstice celebration and half Christian religious mythology all in one.  Like the "Neo-Darwinian Synthesis" that occurred when the theory of natural selection was united with a genetic understanding of heredity, combining these formerly separate traditions together makes them all the richer.  I remember from my youth that at this time of year the barriers between Christian denominations in the community were dissolved and all the local churches, with their priests and pastors, cooperated together in celebrating the season with nativity plays and potlucks.  The more modern manifestations of the mythology of Christmas, like Santa Claus, even bridge religious and secular barriers.  I get swept up in the holiday cheer myself.  I enjoy the traditional music, whatever its origins, and the anticipation of celebrating with gifts and fun. 

Christians emphasize the birth of a savior who overcame the bogeyman of death.  But perhaps we save our lives when we are willing to give them up for someone else, not just when someone else gives theirs up for us.  (This weekend I watched Pitch Black, which has an excellent demonstration of altruism when Carolyn Fry saves Riddick at the expense of her own life.)  I think my aesthetic sensibility, which is probably closely allied with the ethical sense, is not as well developed as many of the women in my life.  My wife recognizes objects of beauty and comfort better than I, and in my mind thoughts of my mother are mingled with the sounds of beautiful music, like "Annie's Song".  Even women I hardly know can pick out good songs, like "Soul Meets Body", better than I.  Christmas is a time to celebrate beauty, whatever its inspirations, and to me that is also a celebration of women.

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