This Christmas I did a lot of reflecting on faith. Christmas is a lot about faith really. First of all it's the celebration of the birth of a deity in human form. Born to a virgin no less! So from the start you have to first have faith that there is a God. Then I suppose the next step would be to believe that He loves you. You would have to believe that He loves you enough to send His Son to be born to a virgin for the purpose of sharing His love and then dying for our sake. Whew! That's a lot to have to accept.
Let's say you don't believe in any of that but you still celebrate Christmas. What are you celebrating? Santa? The "human spirit?" Good will toward men? All of that takes a lot of faith too.
Gabriel is teetering on his belief in Santa. It's the right age for that but I fanned the flame in hopes of keeping that fire going just one more year. He's so smart and so black and white that I am pretty sure he knows and is drawing it out too. Maybe for me. Maybe for his little brother. I hope for himself. It's fun to believe in Santa!
I never did. I just always knew that it was mom and dad but we still played along. Every Christmas Eve my brother, sister and I would sleep under the fireplace in the hopes of catching Santa in the act. See, every year my parents had one "Santa" gift. It was usually big and it was never wrapped. It was the one gift that did not get put out under the tree until Christmas Eve when we were asleep. We would sleep out under the fire place, hoping to catch mom and dad putting out the "Santa" gift. They always did it with out getting caught. Stocking stuffing too.
This Christmas Eve, mom watched the kids while Aaron and I went to our neighbors for a little cocktail hour. We toasted the holiday with champagne and snacked on summer sausage and cheese. There were other friends there too and we all gabbed and caught up. Some how the conversation turned toward the topic of religion. Always a good idea to steer away from such topics as religion and politics but one guest really wanted to dive into it. He suggested we go around and declare our belief/stance on religion.
"I don't believe in religion, " one fellow began. "I don't think there is anything after death. It's final. I think you become something else, like maybe a tree, but your conscience is gone."
"I believe what ever my wife tells me to believe," came a safe and light answer.
I don't quite remember what the other guy said because it was pretty long winded but it seems that he believes in God and possibly Christ. I don't know...he lost me.
"I'm a Christian and I believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again on the third day, " was my husband's text book answer.
"So you believe in a Heaven?" someone asked Aaron.
"And what is that?"
"I don't know."
"I'm also a Christian. Like Aaron said, I believe in Christ's sacrifice and resurrection but I do not really have a religion. I have a relationship with Christ. He's always with me and I talk to Him all the time. It snowed the other day and I could see every detail in the snow flakes. As an artist I just can't believe that there was not an intelligent and creative being behind the creation of those snow flakes. From the science I've studied I can't believe that something as well designed and well balanced as our universe could be created by accident. These things tell me there is a God and I want to know Him," said I. (My answer was not nearly as long as that other guy who's answer I can't actually recall. I think he was dancing about what he actually believed...)
"I am an atheist. I practice Buddhism. I don't believe in a God because I can't believe that a God would allow bad things to happen, especially to children." This response came with tears. This sweet woman and her husband lost their son at a young age. I could totally get why she would not believe in God or want to. If there is any part of her that does I'm sure it's a part that is angry with Him.
My heart was aching at this point.
The grieving woman's husband put an arm around her and began to pontificate on his beliefs. Like her, he could not believe that a God would let bad things happen to children.
"Religion hurts people," he said. "'Let all the little children come to Me,'" he scoffed. "Religious people abuse children and others. Religion causes war. Nothing good comes from it." At some point he specifically argued that Christians were essentially unloving people who believe in a myth. There was a crack made by the guy who will be a tree when he dies, about the "virgin" birth and the other way-far-out-there things in the Christian faith that come across as a fairy tale.
The long winded guy pointed out that Christ is indeed a historical fact. There is proof that He lived. But the other guy continued to point out the evils of religion.
"You're right," I tell him. "Religion has done a lot of bad things and bad things have been done in the name of religion. Christ did not create religion. People did. Christ came to create relationship."
At this point there were several talking at once. No one was angry, mind you. Everyone was very civil about the whole thing. Aaron of course said nothing. He always quietly observes. We pretty much disbanded on this "high-note." After all it was Christmas Eve and we all had things to do to get ready for the holiday. (Whatever that meant to you.) So we toasted the "human-spirit" as mine plummeted further into sadness.
I really wanted to ask what everyone was celebrating for. If they don't believe in Christ what was Christmas to them? I know that Christmas is not celebrated on the actual day of Christ's birth but for hundreds of years that has been what the day is honoring. His name is in the name of the holiday for goodness sake!
I was so sad. My heart ached for my friends. Their answers had no hope in them. Life just ends and in the mean time, our hope is in the "human-spirit?!" Ug. Humans are so flawed and selfish. I can't have my hope in that. I can't have faith in that.
When we got home, Aaron and I snuggled up to the boys on the couch and read Twas the Night Before Christmas and then the Christmas story in Luke, from the Bible. The boys excitedly prepared a plate of cookies and a mug of milk for Santa and set it on the hearth. They couldn't wait to go to sleep because then Santa would soon arrive! We said our bedtime prayers together; Drew went first as always.
"Father God we thank You for this day and I ask that You get Santa here safely with all of the presents and we thank You for giving us Your Son, Jesus."
He gets it! I sighed, Thank you Father for a child's faith.
After we did our Santa Duties, Aaron and I got ready for bed. I cried the whole time.
"What's wrong?" Aaron asked.
"I'm just so sad by tonight's conversation."
"All kinds of people believe different things," he shrugged.
"I know that. I'm not surprised or offended. Just...sad. They have no hope." I prayed for my friends and asked God to help me be a good representative of His love for them. Then I asked that He bring someone else to be a light to them because I'm not any good at that sort of thing. I cried myself to sleep.
Christmas morning was bright and beautiful. And snowless... The family had a lovely and quiet day together. I've been wanting a Christmas like this for so long! It's usually chaos with scads of family. It's always a good time but it's a lot of work and quality time together is lost. So I was very thankful for this intimate Christmas with my family.
I am still reading Eat, Pray, Love. It's become a challenge now. Her time in Italy was a great read but her search for God is exhausting me. I can appreciate how meditating can help one to hear from God. But I don't have to have a quiet mind for Him to reveal things to me. Neither did the author of this book. She was "hearing" from God before she ever took the trip. Admittedly so! (And she does not flip flop tenses as I previously thought.) So I don't quite get all of that. God does not require that you sit still and be bit all over by mosquito's in order to be near Him. He is already near! At least that is what I believe. I just try to love. Love Him and love others.
I don't claim to know how God works or that I know what Heaven will be like. My kids ask me all of the time about these things.
"God has lot's of mysteries that He does not reveal to us. We simply trust that His plan and His ways are perfect. You have to just have faith."