© Caren J. Werlinger
Here in the northern hemisphere, we are approaching the longest night of the year, the night that marks the turning point, the return toward longer days and the coming warmth of spring.
I know not everyone celebrates Christmas, at least not as the remembrance of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. I do. No matter how disgusted I am by the machinations and politics of organized religions supposedly acting in his name while distorting his teachings for their own gain, none of that detracts from my admiration of him as a human being.
Whether you believe in his divinity or not, he was an extraordinary man, delivering a revolutionary message in a time when what he had to say was most unpopular with the ruling authority.
And yet, even though Christmas is supposed to be a celebration of his birth, his story was just beginning, and he didn’t really play that big a part – yet. This holiday has long seemed to me (at least since I grew old enough to not care about toys under the tree) to be more about faith and trust.
Even if you don’t believe in the story of his miraculous conception, the tale itself is a lesson in faith. Can you imagine being a teen-age girl (we guess, based on the betrothal traditions of that era), and being told that you had been chosen to carry, not only a divinely conceived baby, but the child of your God? I am awed at the depth of Mary’s faith, her ability to trust that what she’d been told was true, and the strength of character to say, “I am yours to use as you will.”
As amazing as Mary’s faith was, Joseph’s was equally awesome. How hard it must have been for him to trust what he was told, that his betrothed’s pregnancy was the result of God’s intervention and not a fling with another man. Who could believe that? And he didn’t stop with accepting her. He accepted her baby as his own, protecting him, raising him, teaching him. He became a father to Jesus in every way that he could.
Their faith, their trust in one another is such a human thing.
I stopped going to church a long time ago, for reasons I won’t go into here. But I love Christmas music and I love listening to it in the dark, removed from the noise and commercialization of the season, reminding me to find that kernel of what’s real. I actually listen to it year-round. I’ve linked a couple of YouTube videos for some of my favorite songs of reflection on what that night really stands for.
No matter what you believe or what you celebrate at this time of year, I wish you and your loved ones the peace that is the real gift of this season.
Turn down the lights, turn up the volume and listen….