Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Reason for the Season

This little catch phrase was often used at one time to point out the fact that commercialism is not what Christmas is all about. It's not all about Santa and presents and a tree. Instead, it is about the celebration of the birth of Jesus...or at least, it is if you believe in that sort of thing.

For the record, I am Catholic. I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school until we moved here to Pennsylvania. I believe in what the Bible says, although I don't take it as a word-for-word historical account of things back then. However, I do believe that there was a man named Jesus and He was the Son of God, and He died on a cross for my sins, and someday I will meet Him in Heaven. I am an a la carte Catholic, however, as I am several years behind on the whole Confession thing (one of the big sacraments, which I have not partaken in since I was in fourth grade), and if I skip Mass one week (which plunges me into a state of "Mortal Sin"), I still take Communion the next week (which is a big no-no in such a state). However, I believe in Catholicism for the most part, and the patterns and rituals and structure of the Mass are both comforting and meaningful for me.

I went off to college at a little school called Grove City College, which is a Presbyterian school, complete with strict male/female intervisitation policies and a chapel requirement. At GCC, among other things, I learned the importance of "accepting Christ," which was basically the act of formally acknowledging to Jesus that you recognize him as your Savior. This had never really been a part of my Catholic upbringing, but for good measure, I decided to go that route and accepted Christ ne evening at a Bible study...and in church one day (not Catholic church)...and sitting on a log during a retreat one weekend. I didn't quite get the idea, and it wasn't a deep and meaningful experience for me, so I didn't know if I was doing it right. So that's why I did it three times...just to make sure He heard me.

While I was in college, I attended a church with my roommate called Fellowship Community Church. It was an Evangelical Free church, and it was about as far as you could get from Catholicism without making the turn into the holy-laughter and speaking-in-tongues churches that some of my friends attended. Sure, there were people that raised their hands up when singing, but once I got used to that, it wasn't so bad. I enjoyed the pastor's sermons, and I enjoyed the praise music, and I enjoyed the fact that I could take notes in my Bible. Most of all, I enjoyed the fellowship. It was a great place.

When I got home, I went back to my Catholic church. And when I met Bill, whose two kids attend Catholic school, I ensconced myself firmly back into my Catholic life. We attend church as often as we can and will get married in the Catholic church and will raise our children within that religion. But I also hope that our children get the chance to explore the options out there someday like I did. It has made my faith that much more meaningful for me.

Anyway, back to the reason for the season. Except at this very moment when you are reading about it in my blog and also when I am in church on Sundays, my faith is a pretty private thing. If a patient asks me to pray with them, I am certainly willing to do so, but I don't ever inflict my views on others. And I would certainly not tell you what you had to believe.

Apparently, there are a lot of people out there with too much time on their hands who are trying to sterilize everything to the point that no one ever again gets insulted by the word Christmas. Let's talk about holiday trees. I get's an interpretation of a Pagan symbol and has to do with Solstice. However, in my world, it's a Christmas tree...and that's what it will stay. Can't we just leave well enough alone? Chances are, if you have a Christmas tree, you are either a Christian celebrating Christmas or you are someone who enjoys the Christmas holiday without the Christian beliefs. Whatever. Celebrate as you will. But do we really have to go so politically correct that we can't call a Christmas tree what it is?

On the other end of the spectrum, you have some of the more fundamental Christians who are getting their drawers in a bunch because major retailers like Target don't use the word Christmas in their marketing materials. Um, hello? Micromanage much? It's a MARKETING CAMPAIGN! It's not a statement of Target's world view! Do I really have to boycott Target to be a good Christian? Because I have to tell you...sometimes a trip to Target is the only thing standing between me and a long walk off a short pier. Do you really want to take that away from me?

Anyway, the long and short of it is this...believe what you want to. I won't try to convince you otherwise. And if someone happens to say "Merry Christmas" to you, and you don't celebrate it, please just smile and say thank you. Chances are, they aren't trying to say "Merry Day That Jesus Christ, My Personal Lord and Savior Was Born" to you. Instead, they are probably just trying to share the spirit of the holidays with you...and isn't a little more goodwill to men (and women, of course) kind of what we need?


Steph said...

I agree Mary, people have way too much time on their hands to be debating how to say this and not to say that!! Just say Merry Christmas, I'm not a Christian and I don't take offense to it, come on it's CHRISTMAS!!!

People need to focus their efforts on much needed causes, not what to put in the Christmas cards!

patrice said...

funny you mention this. yesterday, I had a conversation with the woman who sits behind me at work. another coworker was planning a pot luck lunch, and the woman behind me (we'll call her Flo) said that she would love to help organize it, as long as it's not specifically for the holidays, as she doesn't celebrate them. so the coworker sent out an email saying that we were having a holiday pot luck, and now Flo won't participate. I asked her why, and she said it's because she's jehovah's witness and it's against her religion. fair enough, I suppose. you gotta do what you gotta do. what I did find refreshing is that she wasn't angry that it was now a holiday thing. it's hard to be in the minority, and we should all try to be inclusive, but there are some things that are black and white. there's no gray about christmas if you're opposed to it because of religion.

anyways. I LOL'd when you said that you accepted jesus 3 times just to be sure. I did the same thing, accepting him each year when I went to mennonite retreat in the summers. just being on the safe side. it wasn't a big revelation for me either. to me, faith isn't about professing, it's about believing. I think jesus already knows how I feel. I think the professing is just to show others. but that's my own opinion.

Kat said...

Well said.

Also, funny that you assumed it was Chris' quotes (it was), don't you just wonder how it is that they (men) really think, and just what is it like in their world?

kt said...

i am a recovering catholic. unfortunately, the catholic guilt apparently never goes away..

The Mad Hoosier said...

You must have a lot of time on your go to Target only to have to take another trip to Wal-Mart after you find that Target is out of stock of half of the things you are looking for during the trip.

Yep, that's me...Mr. Anti-Target. I can't stand how every single trip I took to the place since I was out of college there has been at least half of the items I went there for in the first place. Unfortunately, my distain for the chain is so strong that I think my wife loves the place to spite me. :)

As far as their marketing campaign...I have to believe that their campaign actually is their world view on the topic. Fortunately, I don't hold that against them. How can you hold a company in bad view for making a stance or marketing campaign that attempts to appeal to the most amount of people. It's what they are in business for after appeal to many people about their products.

As far as my thoughts on Christmas and everyone getting so upset about using or not using the word Christmas, I just posted something very similiar to your sentiments this morning.