Years ago our youngest son, after being put to bed on Christmas Eve, looked at his Dad and inquired: “Why Christmas?” It was a perceptive and honest question from his sweet little 3-year-old mind. How would you answer him?
It is a good question to pose to our grownup selves. We rush about planning and making lists, driving ourselves crazy or go on the internet to find the best deals. We fret over what to give to whom and will they like it.
And then we imagine them opening it up and watch carefully for the expression that comes in that twinkling moment. Maybe that “instant” is our gift! That shining twinkling moment when we made someone happy, see them smile and gasp with surprise, an “Ooooo” and words of thanks (hopefully not a groan).
My husband’s father loved chocolate-covered cherries. Every year we gave him a box. Finally one year he opened the gift and said, “Oh no, not cherries again.” That was the last year we gave him cherries! How many of us have opened presents we definitely did NOT like, but managed to feign appreciation, saying we “love it” and have “always wanted one?”
Back to “Why Christmas?” Well, it is all about Jesus and his birthday, right? It seems that Jesus and his teachings of love, inclusion and non-judgment are not relevant at times. A few years ago I was sitting in a restaurant reading a book about Jesus. The author had put his beautiful face smack on the cover. A gentleman stopped to ask what I was reading.
I smiled at him, silently closed the book and showed him the cover. You would have thought I was pointing a machine gun in his face! He was absolutely horrified, shocked! His eyes were big, brows shot up and he looked like someone had hit him with a stun gun. His adverse reaction was palpable. He said “Oh” and hurried away.
Where does that reaction come from? For more than 2,000 years, the world has had Jesus to deal with. Scholars, sages, saints, wise men and women over the ages have written about him. Various faiths have their concepts and judgments, but where does the “aversion” come from, especially when he innocently asked us to love one another? What’s wrong with that?
One reason could be since the Bible claims he is “God’s ONLY begotten son,” where does that leave the rest of us and the poor horrified man? We know families that have a favorite child whose attributes outshine everyone else, the gifted child. Could it be an unconscious jealousy that stretches through the ages with resentment and feelings of being unloved? It can fester through the centuries and in a lifetime. How many of us, deep down, feel as adored as that “Away in the Manager” baby?
So how do you explain Christmas to a small child? Of course, we have that jolly old elf, Santa Claus, who gives gifts to children if (heaven forbid) they’ve been good, because if they haven’t, that’s a threat adding up to Guilt with a capital “G” on a little psyche.
We also give to those we love and help those in need, donating food and furthering Jesus’s suggestion to “love thy neighbor.”
Next week in Part 2, I will go into what we could have said to our small child if we had known then what we know now. Isn’t that always the case? In the meantime, what would you say to “Why Christmas?” Send me an email at email@example.com.
Sally McKirgan edits the weekly Tidings Inner Peace column and facilitates a weekly group study of “A Course In Miracles.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.