Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I realize not everyone is Christian; heck, I'm not. Yes, I observe a Catholic prayer ritual but that originally started with a Catholic friend I wanted to pray for. Later, when I realized that most of my friends and loved ones are Catholic, I decided to adopt that particular ritual on a permanent basis; had my friend been Protestant, Anglican or, for that matter, a Hindu or Buddhist, the prayer could just as easily have been drawn from one of those traditions.

I believe in God. Period. Specific religious tradition is irrelevant.

Whatever my religious beliefs are now, however, I have always celebrated Christmas and I always will.

I just got a Christmas greeting from a good friend. Regular readers may recognize him; he's commented here under the identities "Wanderer," "Lonnie" and "L" in the past. He's not Christian; he follows Buddhist traditions. As a fellow non-Christian, he has his own ideas about the value of Christmas which closely mirror mine. I'd like to share his Christmas greeting with you, making a few comments of my own along the way:
Once again the Christmas season is upon us. For many of you that means time with family, friends and business associates. For those of you of non-Christian beliefs, it is a time to reflect on the past year and to look forward to the next as the short days of winter encourage more time indoors with a good book and perhaps a warm fire. But there are many who have none of these Blessings. Millions of people around the world are homeless, jobless, are grieving for loved ones who are no longer with them. I encourage you to open a compassionate heart and offer a prayer for the less fortunate.
For those of you who believe in prayer, you might want to send one my way; I'm alone this Christmas for the first time in 36 years.
In these "politically correct" times it seems dangerous to offer a holiday greeting such as "Merry Christmas" for fear of offending those of other beliefs. Yet, in my experience, my friends who are Jewish, Buddhist, and Muslim, take no offence and usually return the greeting with a cheery smile and often a warm handshake or embrace. Wishing a Merry Christmas is not meant to offend, but to extend warmth, friendship and good will into a world that is far too often cold and uncaring.
I wish more non-Christians would understand that. I actually read a blog entry recently on We Move to Canada where the author actually complained to the HR department at her workplace because someone had put religious-themed Christmas decorations in a cubicle which she shared with someone else. Personally, I think that's way overreacting, and I said so in comments to her posting.

Non-Christians, in my opinion, are getting way too sensitive about religious-themed messages, particularly when it comes to Christmas. The way I see it, a shared cubicle is semi-public space. Having to share decorating space with the other person who uses it is analogous to having someone you don't like the look of sit next to you on a bus; so long as their decorations don't crowd out yours and vice versa, that's just something you have to deal with in public.

Now, this same person also wrote an entry about a Christmas card she got that was obviously intended to push a Christian agenda. Now I understand why she's upset with that. It's one thing to simply display decorations themed around one's religious beliefs; it's quite another to launch an attack against the beliefs of another. Going back to our bus analogy, that's like the person sitting next to you telling you to move because they don't want to be near you.

If she, or anyone else, has a problem with Christmas, that's their right. However, such people need to remember that not everyone feels the way they do. They also need to remember that not every person wishing people Merry Christmas is trying to push a religious agenda; for most people, myself among them, it's simply meant as an expression of goodwill which transcends the holiday's religious origins.

That being said, I'd like to leave you all with Lonnie's Christmas wishes; he expresses how I feel about the season perfectly:
So, I offer to all of you… Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, Pagan, Wiccan, Native American, and those of you who celebrate religious beliefs I have not even heard of, a warm and wonderful season to correspond with the winter solstice… In other words,

Merry Christmas!

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