My best friends in the third grade were twin sisters, Annette and Arlene Frier. They told me that Chanukah was not a big deal. I believed them. Their father was a Rabbi.
I was brought up to believe in Baby Jesus. I had a Catholic mass card imprinted with his face aglow under a mass of blonde curls and a halo. In my child-like wonder, I recognized myself in that face.
Forgive me, but I didn’t see a fundamental contradiction between being a Christian or a Jew. It didn’t matter whether there was a manger or a menorah under my roof. I was caught up in playing Santa Claus and felt obligated to give. Feeling compelled to give of one’s self is not a bad thing.
Here is the wakeup call for everyone.
Times are changing. The advances we’re making in health and technology are showing us new ways to connect. The world’s religions have much more in common than any one of us has been led to believe. Whether you’re a Jew, a Christian, a Muslim, a Sikh, a heathen, an outcast or a believer in little or nothing, all of us can see similar patterns emerging in all thinking disciplines.
As a culture, we’re expanding beyond the manger and beginning to embrace the cradle of civilization. No matter what your faith is, the yuletide season gives people of all walks of life, of all stripes and colors, a collective reason to want to be together and to celebrate.
Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of a new life. A child has been born, son of God, son of man. God or not, a child has been born. A new human being has come into the world, and that gives us hope. No one person has the power to declare Christmas as a myth or mystery. It doesn’t change how, as human beings, we feel compelled to give. No one person can deny that in Bethlehem a child was born, and that one birth forever changed the course of civilization.