Friday, 21 December 2012

The Religion of Christmas

Below is a copy of a piece I wrote for December edition of "The Unitarian" magazine.

Christmas is the season for giving and for getting, but surely this ought not to be limited to the material life. It is not only about what we get from others or what we give to them. It is also about forgiving and forgetting. It is a time of reconciliation and not merely a time for giving and getting goodies, a time of wanton materialism. There is a bigger difference between "for giving and for getting" and forgiving and forgetting" than the space between the "r" and the "g".

Christmas is a time to put aside past differences and to let bygones be bygones; a time to heal old wounds and of course new ones too. Radical inclusion and acceptance is the true message of Christmas. To me this is what religion is all about. Religion is about how we live in community with others and not merely an idea or belief system. 
Radical inclusion and acceptance is the true spirit of Christmas. 
How though do we bring this spirit, of radical inclusion and acceptance, into our lives, right here right now? How do we bring the spirit of Christmas into our homes and communities today and for that matter every day? How do we create a Christmas religion? Where is Christmas hidden under all those ribbons and bows and songs and merriments?
Well I believe it is still to be found in that story of the ordinary boy, born in that lowly stable. The message of radical inclusion and forgiveness has survived the centuries. The message that Jesus brought to us has survived all that we have done to it over the last two thousand years.

Jesus in his short life taught only love, Agape, spiritual love. By the way he was not unique in teaching this, it is a universal principle found in all the great faith traditions. It is this love that is there within each and every one of us that has the power to transform our hearts and souls and brings us into harmony with all creation and that power that runs through all of life, that I call God.

This is the message of Christmas, the religion of Christmas, the expression of faith, hope, love and of course joy. These are the qualities that need to be brought into this day and every day in order to bring to life the Christmas magic.  If we feel, think, speak and act through these qualities we can connect heart to heart and break down those old cold barriers. I discovered some time ago that the language of the heart is universal and that it breaks through any barrier, created by fear and resentment. This is the religion of Christmas.

 There have been times in my life when I have been cut off from those I have loved and those who have loved me. Today I do as much as I can to ensure that this is no longer the case. I will travel to Yorkshire after leading worship on Christmas morning and visit several family members and old friends too. I will no doubt travel to and from Yorkshire several times over the Christmas period as I try to take care of those connections, those lifelines that support me. If I have learnt anything in my life I have learnt that I need loving connection. This is the Christmas message, the building and development of compassionate connection. This is the religion of Christmas.

It is a message of hope that is found there in the Christmas stable in that ordinary boy born from an ordinary family who did extraordinary things in his short life. This is surely an inspiration to us all, for we all possess within us, what was also in that boy. All that we have to do to incarnate that reality is to bring that love into our daily lives; we can bring that hope found in the stable into our daily lives. This is a message of hope that does indeed bring glad tidings of comfort and joy. This is the religion of Christmas.

Love begins within our own hearts and incarnates through our thoughts words and deeds, until it touches others. It spreads to our friends and families, our communities, our countries and throughout our world. These concentric circles of compassion are the religion of Christmas. This message pre-dates the Christmas story; a message spoken of by Confucius two and half thousand years ago; a message of loving compassion expressed by all the great sages of human history. To bring it to life all that we need do is remember that we have that love within us and that it can be developed if we would only nurture it. This is the religion of Christmas.

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