Sunday, December 22, 2013

Forum: What Do You Think The Meaning Of Christmas Is? What Does It Mean To You?

Every week on Monday morning , the Council and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher's Forum, short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture or just daily life. This week's question
: What Do You Think The Meaning Of Christmas Is? What Does It Mean To You?

 The Independent Sentinel: For me, Christmas means getting together with family and friends to celebrate the birth and life of Christ. He modeled and exemplified the virtues I strive to attain. It is a time to give generously and wish people well in his name.

For all the people on the left, he was not a socialist. He was a religious leader and, for some of us, he is God. In either case, he was above politics.

Christmas is a National Holiday and should be above politics. It should be fun for everyone. It has historical significance because of who our Founding Fathers were.

There is enough that is secular about it to make it acceptable to everyone if they will allow it. One can have a black Santa, a winter doesn't matter.

People should be glad for the day with loved ones and have a good time.

 Liberty's Spirit: I have gone through a bit of an evolution about Christmas in my lifetime. Being Jewish we did not celebrate Christmas in any way shape or form growing up. We did not sing carols nor participate in the Christmas programs in school. And yes they had Christmas pageants in our public school. I grew up in the deep South, my family having moved from New York. We moved to Memphis one month after MLK was assassinated and after the Supreme Court had made prayer illegal in public school. Not that anyone in any of my schools paid that Supreme Court ruling much heed.

During my first year in Memphis, my parents informed the school that my sister and I, the only Jewish students in the school, would not be participating in the Christmas pageant. From that moment on, the teachers decided to torment us. We were not allowed to participate in music class and during the school-wide presentation of each class' song, my sister and I were singled out, sent to sit by ourselves away from the other children into the back of the auditorium. The following year they didn't even bother to bring us to the auditorium, we were told to stay in our classrooms, alone, without adult supervision until the school assembly was over. That particular teacher that year, enjoyed reading from the Bible the one line passage about how the Jews killed Christ as well. When I objected, she retorted that I didn't know what I was talking about and I should sit down and be quiet before I got into trouble. The following year, my sister was beaten up by a boy in her class because she refused to kneel. The teacher looked on and did nothing. Simply turned around and walked out of the classroom while my sister was attacked. We were respectively in 3-5th grade during those years.

So what effect did it have on me, this antisemitism around the Christmas holiday? Well it did not predispose me to the season at all. I not only grew to resent the season but those who were religious Christians as well. For every carol sung I felt the sting of hatred that happened to me as a small child. I felt they tried to make me ashamed of my Jewish heritage but infact all they did was reinforce in me the desire and need to be Jewish. But what it also did was to make me feel a stranger in m own nation. The country that my father had fought for during Korea and that I had been taught to love and respect didn't want me. I think that is what I resented the most. That someone out there thought they could try to take from me my rights as an American because I was Jewish.

And now?

Life has a way of changing your perspectives. Not because the sting of the ignorance I faced has faded. Not by any means. But in reality over the years, some of the people who have been the kindest and most endearing to my children have been religious Christians. When you have a child, especially one with special needs, you seek out those who are best for your child. It turns out that the village we created for my sons had people from every walk of life, every religion, every race and most creeds. That I saw all the professionals, work so very hard to enable my sons to have a true future, that to me was more important than holding on to the feeling of the marginalized little girl from so many decades ago. I also learned from these people what it meant to be a real Christian and live those values.

But you know what also changed? I think America as a whole changed too. There is more acceptance of all religions. Its as simple as hearing a Hanukkah greeting on the radio or television, having the children learn Hanukkah music at holiday time in public school, studying in some manner the Holocaust, seeing Jewish politicians, Jewish captains of industry and even when a Jewish Senator ran for Vice President. It's having May designated Jewish history month too. It's an acknowledgement that Jews were, and are, an integral part of the American landscape almost from the very beginning of our nation's history. (As an aside I did read in a history book when I was in 7th grade about Chaim Solomon, a Jewish merchant who gave up his fortune so the American colonies could buy what it need for the Continental army. Little did I know at the time, that I would one day grow up to marry one of his descendants.In truth that little blurb in a history book helped that little Jewish girl living in the deep south who had been so wrongly treated. I remember at the time feeling pride and knowing that noone can take away my American heritage from me, no matter how hard they tried.)

So what does Christmas mean to me now? It is a holiday time when the majority of Americans celebrate a joyful holiday. Decorations are abundant, happiness and hope is in the air. It is a time when the impossible could become possible. It's a reminder of the human spirit and what humanity could accomplish if it actually wanted to.

As far as what do we, a Jewish family do on Christmas Day? Well we do what most Jewish-Americans do....go to the movies and order in Chinese food.

 Bookworm Room : First and foremost, the meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Christ. It makes no difference that Christ was probably born around March. December 25 is his official birthday, and he deserves a big celebration.

Second, Christmas is about bringing light to winter's dark days. It's no coincidence that a 3rd century pope blended the Celtic Yule and the Roman Saturnalia, both celebrated around the winter solstice, into Christmas. The dark days force contemplation, but they also demand celebration.

Third, Christmas is about generosity. At the religious level, Christ grew up to give his life to save mankind, which is the ultimate generous act. At a less rarefied (or, should I say, deified) level, Christmas is about presents. Unfortunately, though, most American parents have realized that their generosity is just the flip side of their children's sense of entitlement. To me, though, there's a more fundamental generosity around Christmas in America: American Christians share this holiday. You don't have to believe in "Christ the Savior" to enjoy the music, the lights, and the festivities. I don't put lights on my house, but I'm free to drive around and admire other people's house. Unlike certain other countries that shall go nameless, America's Christians share their holiday with me, rather than foisting it upon me with social pressure or violence.

I adore Christmas. I love the music, I love the lights, I love the happiness that fills those people who aren't bogged down in the whole commercial aspect, and I love living in a country where I am free not to celebrate Christmas but, instead, can freely celebrate others' joy.

 JoshuaPundit: I don't mind at all admitting that I really like Christmas.

Not for the usual reasons, probably. I don't celebrate it. There's no religious context for me, although I certainly find the faith that others express moving. The thought of slogging through a mall any time of year let alone Christmas sees me gritting my teeth and think 'hmmm, flight,or fight?'

My main thought about the lights and decorations, honestly,  is that they're kinda pretty but I'm  very glad I don't have to put them up, although I confess to being moved by  nativity scenes here and there and some of the wonderful art that this holiday has inspired over the years. I can't imagine anyone with an ounce of musical taste listening to Handel's Messiah or some of the carols or secular songs in the right setting and not being moved. Christmas trees? I'd rather see one live out in the forest myself, but that's me.

Yet the irony is that all of these things contribute to what I most like about Christmas..they are sort of psychic triggers for the spirit that seems to permeate everyone during this time. At least, unless you consciously choose to close yourself off from it.

People are easier, nicer to one another. They give of themselves. They smile more, and treat each other with more courtesy, generosity of spirit and decency.. The cop who ordinarily might ticket you for going 35 in a 30 mile zone to meet his monthly quota will say 'Heck, it's Christmas. Just be more careful, OK?' People go out of their way to do favors for you or help you out  in ways they ordinarily wouldn't because it's, you know, Christmas.

I suppose, in a way, what people are trying to do is to imitate how they view the behavior of Jesus Christ to the extent they can. That's a beautiful thing. And being a Jew, I have to admit that I'm far more comfortable with non-Jews who embrace that spirit as opposed to those who don't.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

 GrEaT sAtAn"S gIrLfRiEnD:A celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ the Saviour. "For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever will believeth on Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life" St John 3:16

The Glittering Eye: The basic belief that Christians hold is the transcendental made immanent. "For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son". There's no use in trying to rationalize that belief. It's irrational. It's mystical. Christmas is our celebration of that mystery.

That Jesus came among us as weak, helpless, and poor is a reminder to us of just how great that love was.

The basic vocation of Christians is the imitation of Christ. We are to imitate Jesus in humility, in love, in caring, and in healing.

It is at this time of year that I am reminded most forcefully of what a poor excuse for a Christian I am but that the new year is an opportunity for me to try and do better.

May we all see the love and grace of God in our families, friends, and all those we meet this Christmas season and may be do our best to show that love to others.

 Well, there you have it.

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