Tuesday, December 25, 2007

An Atheist at Christmas

There seems to be a loud push from the two extreme camps of fundamentalism and atheism. Both decry the current celebrations of Christmas. The fundamentalists want to strip Christmas of Santa, Frosty and the reindeer while the atheists see the recognition of Christmas as a tacit approval that we are a Christian country.

The problem with standing in the middle of the road is that you get hit by traffic from both directions but I will take that risk.

Our December 25 observance of Christmas has evolved from the centuries old solstice celebrations. As Christianity grew, it usurped the pagan holidays and converted them to Christian celebrations. Christmas has never been static, it has been an ever-evolving event. The historical St Nicholas lived somewhere between the 3rd to 4th century in what is now Turkey. He gradually merged with British Father Christmas and other symbols from the 17th century until the present to create the image of Santa Claus we all know. It is hard to imagine Christmas without Rudolph the Red nosed Reindeer. Rudolph had his start in 1939, created by Robert May as a promotion for Montgomery Ward.

If Christmas is an ever evolving event, we need to evolve with it. There is so much history, culture and faith mixed with the observance, Christmas means something different to each of us. This morning, I read the Christmas story and enjoyed it as I always have. I can marvel that greatest things in life are easy missed because they appear mundane. I can relate the Christ story, the giving of a child as a gift to mankind, when I see police officers lined up in formation. They also have chosen to give their lives to service with much risk and little reward. I can look at the secular Christmas stories and take equally valuable lessons. Rudolph teaches us about valuing those who are different than us. Isn’t Frosty a child’s first encounter with death? And finally Santa, who teaches us about the wonder of the giving and the way to happiness is to bring joy to others.

So, I will be at my piano soon, playing all my favorite Christmas carols. In all honesty, I can play, sing and take in all that is good about this holiday. It is OK that the lessons I will take with me may be different than those of my neighbor.

So on this Christmas morning, the ever-evolving atheist proclaims, “Peace on Earth and good will towards men.”

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