Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter Break

It's winter break.  That's right, the innocuous-sounding 'winter break' for those employed in this country's public school systems.  Not Christmas vacation, or even 'holiday break'--though that is inclusive of whatever holiday a person wishes to celebrate--but just a plain vanilla break that happens to occur during winter, just as the other one occurs during the spring.

At Beve's school, it used to be that food was collected the week before this break with some presents thrown in for some needy families in the area.  But a few, rather vocal teachers were vociferous in their protests.  Most of that protest came in the form of mass emails sent to all and sundry, objecting loudly (if a written form or communication might be called loud!) to such charity, because it was connected to a religious holiday.  Sure, celebrate Halloween, which, if you ask me, has plenty of religion attached to it, and I'm not talking about the day after which is All-Saints Day.  And definitely celebrate Thankgsiving which is only an American one.  But Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza (a recent addition)?  Heck, no!

Beve helped set up a pre-vacation potluck for his staff last week, and called it a 'holiday bash', and as anemic as that sounds to me, Beve got one of those emails.  A colleague told Beve he was deeply disappointed, that he expected more from Beve.  Beve told me about it and we shook our heads.

It makes me wonder at this world we live in, er, I should say, the country we call home.  We are guranteed the right to bear arms, the right to gather in protest, the right to speak what we believe, even if what we believe isn't sanctioned by our government or popular with our peers.  So this man Beve works with has the right to protest Beve's use of the word 'holiday', but has forgotten that Beve also has the right to acknowledge that holidays lie ahead on the calendar.

The thing is, it isn't just a winter break.  It isn't merely a holiday.  It's Christmas.  For us, it is. The year before we married, Beve and I were in India on Christmas Day.  It was one of my favorite Christmases, where we'd worked hard to fix dinner for our small international community.  We took a walk that afternoon, while our turkey was cooking (a butterball picked up at the American embassy! and without sausage OR dogfood stuffing), and on the street, several Indians said, "Merry Christmas" to us.  I loved that.  Obviously we were westerners--our skin-color, clothing and Beve's enormous size pointed that out everywhere we went--and from the point of view of these Indians, it was our holiday.  Not theirs, but ours.  Nothing was closed that day in India.  It wasn't a national holiday, just an ordinary Tuesday (or which ever day it was), but they knew, and were glad to wish us the traditional Christmas greeting.  "Merry Christmas!"

This attitude, it seems to me, is more enlightened than all the political correctness this nations tries to practice.  Paying attention in what's important to others, acknowledging that.  Maybe even allowing what's important to others to pave the way for real dialogue about our differences.  Paul did this, you know.  He saw all the shrines in Athens and acknowledged them.  "It's plain to see that you Athenians take your religion seriously," he told them.  "And I found one [shrine] inscribed, TO THE GOD NOBODY KNOWS. I'm here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who you're dealing with." Acts 17: 22-24 (the Message)

We won't get anywhere by pretending other religions don't exist, by pretending there is no such thing as Christmas, Ramadan, Yom Kippur.  We need not only to acknowledge these holidays, but to give those who practice them respect.  And, if and when, the moment is right for conversation, speak of our similarities rather than point our fingers at what is right and wrong about all others.

As the angel said, "Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please Him."

And who pleases Him? Or, let me ask it this way, who doesn't please Him?  If you can think of one person, one who was not made in His image, let me know.  Because I think this means all of us.  And if it does, if every person has the right to this day, this most holy day in Bethlehem, then don't we owe it to them, to Him, to that God squeezed into a human baby's skin, don't we owe it to all people to start with what they celebrate--the unknown gods and goddesses--and point them toward The ONE we know.

Because, for our God's sake, it's NOT just winter break.  It's Christmas, the day we celebrate this KNOWN God we love.

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