Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Season's Greetings

This will be my first December as an open atheist. Will anything change? Probably not. Hopefully not.  

Here are some things I love about the Christmas season--look, I'll acknowledge the season even if I don't subscribe to the miracle--that might seem inconsistent with non-belief.

I still love to get Christmas and holiday cards, no matter if they're slathered in all manner of religious iconography, especially if they contain a photo or a handwritten note. It's about reaching out to the people in your life, stoking fires that might have been neglected.

I love the memory of what Christmas is through a child's eye. No school; just home. Being bundled in a warm house with Mom baking the cookies her mother used to bake: Brazilian coffee cookies and almondy spritzes, both plain and chocolate. Being bundled in a warm car with Dad driving the family to look at Christmas lights. The glow of little electric candles in your bedroom window after lights out. It's about the connection of generations, being part of something beyond your own self.

I love the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. We'd take the time as a family to watch this each year, bundled on the couch or floor of the family room. My favorite part is the scene with Linus in the spotlight. You'll recall that Charlie Brown is isolated with his pitiful tree on the right side of the stage, while all his friends--including his dog--are on the left. "Lights, please." Linus quotes the story of Jesus' birth as told in the book of Luke. Slow down, take a deep breath, quietly reflect. "And on earth peace, and goodwill toward men." Things got better for old Charlie Brown after that. It's not about gaudy decorations or presents; it's about love. 

I love this poem by Phillips Brooks, an Episcopal priest: 

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee to-night.

The everlasting Light, electric candles, Christmas tree lights, menorah. The warmth of hearth, ovens, heaters, blankets. We all find tidings of comfort and joy in these symbols of love. 

Yoga classes conclude with "Namaste," a greeting I learned meant, "The light in me salutes the light in you." Wikipedia divulges a number of other meanings, including this nugget: "I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells, I honor the place in you which is of Love, of Integrity, of Wisdom and of Peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are One."

To my family, Christian, Jewish and otherwise, to my friends new and old, to Luke, Fr. Brooks, Charles Schulz, and to all of you, I say:

Merry Christmas. Happy Hannukah. Season's greetings. Namaste.  


  1. And to you I say, Happy Festivus for the rest of us!