How is it Monday already? Man, these weekends fly by — especially the ones leading up to the holidays, it seems! I hope you found at least a few moments to relax in there somewhere; for my part, I enjoyed a bit of extra sleep!
As we round the bend toward Christmas, I thought I’d tackle one of the common questions that comes up at this time of year. What do I do about winter holidays? I can’t speak for all of Druidry, obviously, but from a spiritual standpoint, I celebrate the Solstice (Alban Arthan), and then we celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday centering on family (born & chosen). I am not torn between the two; they are distinct and not in opposition as I see them.
Christmas always brings up such mixed emotions for me (and for many others, I realize, though not necessarily for the same reasons). As a former Christian, a lot of my early memories are tied to church services and the doctrine surrounding the Holy Birth.
Growing up, I always had this sense of foreboding around Christmas. It represented the birth of Jesus, but it also started the cycle that I already knew ended in his death. There’s a hymn about that, called “Christmas Has Its Cradle” — it starts like this:
“Christmas has its cradle, where a baby cried;
Did the lantern’s shadow show Him crucified?
Did He foresee darkly His life’s willing loss?
Christmas has its cradle and Easter has its cross.”
That’s…dark AF. (The tune is creepy too.)
The older I became, the more macabre it seemed to celebrate the birth of the Ultimate Innocent who would be sent to death by those who saw him as a political threat, allowed by his Holy Father to die to pay for the sins of the world, both present and future. Given that that was to include my own sins, it felt a lot like celebrating the birth of our collective scapegoat, our living “get out of jail free” card.
This isn’t a Christianity-bashing post, though I do have several huge problems with it as it’s practiced today, particularly the evangelical sort I was born into. Rampant misogyny, homophobia and hypocrisy aside (because Christianity does not have the sole claim on these), I’ve never been a fan of blind obedience. I also think that particular religion focuses too much on death and the afterlife and not enough on the life in front of us, and I know it uses the tools of fear and shame to cow people into unquestioning loyalty and giving up their agency. (“Let go and let God” is such a dangerous refrain — but more on that in another post some other time.)
That said, I like Jesus a lot. I think that for the most part, he and I would be great friends if I met him on the street today. He was a rebel, one of the earliest proponents of radical all-encompassing love. He was an advocate for compassion and inclusion, and he wasn’t afraid to do things differently if what was done for tradition’s sake wasn’t working anymore.
One of the best gifts Christianity gave me was the emphasis on serving “the least of these,” in Jesus’s own words. (It shouldn’t need to be said, but I don’t see the less fortunate as being “less than” — nor do I see animals as lesser beings. The point stands though.) We are all interdependent with one another; we are all connected. Our actions, for good or ill, cast wide ripples that we may never fully appreciate or comprehend.
Compassion must be at the heart of all we do– and better than that, compassion in action. This mindset guides me to seek out how I might better serve the needs of those around me, no matter how small or “insignificant” those beings or those needs might seem to some.
On that note, I’m off to scatter seeds across my snowy back yard. Perhaps it is a very small gesture in a pile of small gestures woven through my life…but the Starfish Story always resonated with me, and I think Jesus would’ve liked it too.