Christmas is far from my favorite holiday, and I try to avoid as much of the craziness as possible. I don't enjoy the Secular Santa motif, but I also no longer practice the Christian traditions of the holiday. Nevertheless, acknowledgement of the winter solstice seems to be somehow hardwired into the human psyche, and I can't ignore it altogether. This post from Olin Morales from several weeks ago seems like a totally appropriate meditation for the season.
Why do we celebrate the Festivals of Light during the darkest time of the year? Because our most primitive ancestors didn't understand how it worked but they knew in their bones that the seasons would turn and the Light would shine again. They marked the turning point with mid-winter feasts that contrasted sharply with the hunger, cold and darkness that came with the rest of wintertime. Numerous traditions developed around the winter solstice in many cultures, Christmas being one of them.
The paradox of Christmas is all about loving without understanding. How can the Son of God be born in a stable, live an ordinary life and then be murdered by people who fear his message? How can a mere girl love her Lord enough to be the surrogate mother of His Son, a role that will bring her hardship and pain for the rest of her life? How can a Jewish man of the first century love a woman enough to marry her when she is pregnant with a child of unknown paternity? The entire New Testament story is about people loving without understanding. Christmas is about stepping out in faith.
It is wonderful (and easy) to love someone you understand. It is challenging and sometimes frightening to love someone you do not understand. The payoff, however, is that when you love without understanding, you allow room for both yourself and your beloved to grow and change and be transformed.
That is the ultimate message of Christmas: the miracle of Immanuel cannot be understood or explained. It can only be experienced, in awe and with thanksgiving. What is more, it can transform anyone who allows themselves to love the mystery.
Blessed Christmas, Dear Readers!