We started playing Christmas songs at my house the day after Thanksgiving. It is part of a ritual that we began years ago.
That’s also the day we try to put up all our Christmas decorations; even then an assortment of songs provides a festive soundtrack as we deck the halls. Those songs are allowed to play until midnight, Dec. 26. After that, Bing Crosby crooning away at “Silver Bells” is boxed up with our tree, ornaments, and the Snoopy nativity scene my sister gave us a few years ago.
Until Dec. 26, however, we are all into the music, the parades, the movies, the lights, the Sundays of Advent, and the message of hope that is the driving purpose behind the season.
You see, our family is really into Christmas because we are a Christian family. Whether or not Jesus was born on Dec. 25 or we get the right size sweater really isn’t the point for us. The fact that Jesus was born and that he went on to do as the Bible says he did is more to the point for us, and the reason our family celebrates this season with such gusto. But that isn’t true for everyone.
What has always been interesting to me is just how often people of other faiths or no faith at all still treat Christmas with a level of respect or at least make an attempt to. The truth is, Christmas has become so commercialized, so tied into shopping and gifts and a dude in a red suit, that it is often more secular than sacred, which candidly would seem to give non-Christmas celebrating folks ample reason to disdain the holiday.
And yet there are so many of them who not only respect the sacredness of Christmas but actually honor those who believe in more than the magic of Christmas.
In fact, not too long ago my wife ran into an acquaintance at the market who is of another faith, one which is often maligned, especially by those within our faith tradition. As they parted, this lady made a point of wishing my wife a Merry Christmas. It was a gift, of sorts, because, for one thing, she doesn’t believe as we do and, second, she really hopes that our family’s Christmas is great.
That may not seem like a big deal, but I think it happens far more often than a lot of people who celebrate Christmas realize. After all, those who celebrate Christmas are the overwhelming majority in this country and especially in this region.
And yet, people of other faiths or no faith live here as well, and generally, they continue to show a level of respect and genuine kindness to those of us who celebrate this season out of reverence. However, those same folks often do not receive the same respect and kindness in return.
I observed some of that over the past year mostly in comments from people I know who celebrate Christmas with gusto. And yet they often cast aspersions on people of other faiths throughout the year. Some have gone so far as to utter the name of other people’s religion as means of insulting them, adding a few choice expletives and adjectives in front of it.
Let me quickly add that I’m not advocating a sort of universalism that tries to lump all of humanity into some sort of family. Nor am I so naïve as to suggest that we all just ought to get along, as if our differences don’t create major world issues, including armed conflict.
What I am suggesting is that those who profess to go beyond the holly and the ivy because of their devotion to the sacredness of the season ought to extend grace and kindness toward others every chance they get.
In fact, those who celebrate this season out of reverence for the newborn King, ought, as Charles Dickens once wrote, keep the spirit of Christmas year-round. That means, of course, figuring out how best to imitate the one who was laid in a manger, especially when it comes to dealing with those who do not sing the same songs at Christmas that we do.