Celebrate This

By now it’s well established that I no longer believe in the god I professed for ages, to whom I dedicated 26 years of my life. Yet I celebrate Christmas with much joy and happiness. I bestow and receive gifts. I revel in food and drink, and the fellowship of loved ones and friends. I let the music, lights, and colors of the season wash over me through the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

But what am I celebrating? Is not the holiday the most stark reminder of what I no longer believe, of what I have concluded is a delusion that is detrimental to the peace and growth of our society?

Well… yes and no.

What leaving behind the faith has restored to me is the Christmas of my youth.

When I was a child, Christmas was not about Jesus, sin, death, blood sacrifice, and dogma. It was about, love, peace, and goodwill to men. Our increasingly pluralistic and maturing society adapted the aspects of the holiday that appealed to all people regardless of faith, creed, or philosophy.

Christmas was about the joy and happiness of children. It was about being fully and wholly a child, without apology. Bright eyes on Christmas morning, tearing open packages and delighting in the discovery of a long-hoped for present, or in the surprise of a special and unexpected gift.

It was about beloved stories and characters who taught us about kindness and the spirit of giving.

It was about forgetting our worries for a day. It was about setting aside our quarrels and disagreements to remember what was truly important – family and friends – those things you can’t buy at a department store.

It was about the hope for Peace on Earth. Real peace. Not the peace that comes from coercing everyone into believing one story over another, but the peace that comes from accepting people where they are for who they are and finding a way to live together in harmony. Every Christmas that hope seemed like it just might be possible someday.

It was about Goodwill to Men. Treat each other with kindness. How is that so difficult? And why can’t we have goodwill the other 364 days?

As Elvis Presley once sang, If every day could be like Christmas, what a wonderful world this would be.

It was about Love. The love of family, the love of friends. The love in your child’s eyes on Christmas morning. The love in your beloved’s eyes at Christmas evening.

But there was a time when the Church stripped away this simple, hopeful joy. Looking back, it almost made me cynical.

I would hear sentiments like those above and would think that they were empty hopes without Jesus. In the Christian economy, peace, goodwill, hope, and love are empty for unbelievers. People who celebrated Christmas in the spirit of those ideals were only fooling themselves. They were missing the point, and were bound for an eternity of suffering if they didn’t wake up and realize that the only peace, hope, goodwill, and love was in Jesus.

I couldn’t enjoy secular celebrations without the sly thought that I had the real truth, that I understood what those songs were really about, and that if those people would just listen, they could have real joy too. I was so superior.

From the Christian perspective, that’s just the truth, like it or not.

But now, having come to the conclusion that Christianity is just another spiritual myth, another idea about the universe found wanting, I can set it aside, out of the way, and find hidden beneath it that simple and abiding joy that comes from thinking the best of people, in hoping the best for people, in seeking the best for people.

It gives me joy to realize that the spirit of the Christmas of my youth isn’t only for the chosen few who’ve seen the light, no matter how many ridiculous ways they try to take it away from the rest of us.

It is for all of us, and perhaps even moreso for all of us who have no urge to insist that others celebrate it our way or no way.

It is for all of us. For the young and the old. For the rich and the poor. For red, yellow, black, and white. It is for the kind and the gentle, the winsome and humble. It is for all who hope for a better world for them and their children, no matter where they live or where they’re from.

And it is in this spirit, the spirit of the Christmas of my youth, that I wish all of you a very, very Happy Christmas.

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4 thoughts on “Celebrate This

  1. I was looking for a book to show a friend, and happened upon this page while searching for it. I just wanted to say that I’m not sure what caused you to lose your faith, but I hope that it wasn’t for the reasons you listed here. I find that people tend to take moments that happened with one or even more, and collectively group them over an entire group or culture. I have been to many churches that I didn’t agree with what they said, because they put their own ego with thoughts and feelings into it, instead of staying in God’s word and truth. That doesn’t mean that I would consider swearing off being a Christian. That is where we fail each other, by putting our own spin on what God wants for us. God is love. Jesus didn’t judge people while He was here on this earth. He also said that sin is sin, and none was worse than another, and no one is without it. Jesus was the only divine man to walk the earth. He doesn’t want us to live in shame, because He already died to cover our sins. He wasn’t just a good teacher of morals either. God stepped into human history to do what only He could do. Nothing else could cover sin, but the blood of Christ. The sin was too great. I think the biggest issue we have as a culture, is that we don’t humble ourselves to fully allow ourselves to read and find the truth, before taking a few clips of something here and there and making opinions. People only take the clip from the bible about judgement, but they don’t read what He said before or after it. If you don’t read it, how can you judge it? You wouldn’t take a test without reading the information and questions. I’m not telling you that you have to believe. I would never do that, because even God gave us the choice to love Him or not. He never wanted robots to worship him. He wanted us to love Him freely with our own hearts. He created us so that we could be close to Him and know His love. There is a lot to this world that we don’t understand, and I plan on asking God some questions myself. Even though I don’t understand everything, I know God is real, because I have allowed myself to both be a skeptic, and also to believe. I have researched and found that it would take more to not believe than to believe. I read the bible, and I have personally felt the love of God after I asked for it, and truly believed He would allow me to feel His love. It is for everyone to believe how they wish, and I don’t judge anyone, even you for not believing how I do. I just know how it was for me when I was young in my beliefs, and I know how I let others influence me, instead of reading the Bible and finding those answers for myself. I studied and read about other religions, and beliefs, and I have never found anything that could possibly answer the questions I have about life like Christianity does for me. It’s all about the answers for me. I hope you find your peace, and I wish you well in your search. I’m not one of “those” people who only believe that Christians are “happy” either. I do believe that happiness comes from your circumstances, and that comes and goes with life. However, I do believe that true “joy” came by accepting Him, because that is what happened for me. When I truly accepted Him, my life changed. I know I can exist no matter how bad things get, and I can make it, because I still have a love like I have never felt before. The more I seek His love, the more I feel it. As my relationship grows with Him, I realize that I love people as well more and more. He wants us to love each other and love Him. I understand that we are all equal in His eyes. I truly hope you find your peace and real joy for you. Take care of yourself and peace be with you…

    • Hi there, Kat. Thanks for taking the time to read and respond. I appreciate your concern.

      You did make a few assumptions that I’d like to correct, then invite you to read My Story to understand how I went from devout believer to atheist, if you’re are still interested.

      I definitely didn’t leave the faith over Christmas 😉 But I do allude to a few of the reasons that led me to explore the matter, at which point I did not lose my faith, rather I realized that it wasn’t reasonable to continue believing.

      I heard, lived, and repeated to others the gospel message you related in your comment for over 2 decades. I read my bible, more than nearly everyone I knew. I knew it frontwards and back, better than most lay people. I myself was a lay leader for years, mostly in worship related ministries, but in other ways too. I experienced what you experience and I felt what you feel. But now I know where those experiences come from.

      I used to think it took more faith to not believe than to believe. When my doubts were strongest, that was the basic title of the apologetics book I went to in order to preserve my belief. In the end, that wasn’t enough.

      If you are truly interested, please see the navigation bar at the top of the page and click on “My Story.” That will give you the full story. It is a long read, so I won’t be offended if you don’t wish to take the time. But if you do, I hope you’ll comment and let me know that you did, even if you think I’m off my rocker. 🙂

      Finally, keep in mind that there are several years of articles on this blog, some 35+, where I go into greater detail on many aspects of the faith that I can no longer accept or find reasonable.

      Thanks again for stopping in, however accidentally you may have arrived.

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