During this season when people around the world celebrate a holiday that has evolved out of an accumulation many festivities, I and my family celebrate Christmas, the memory of the birth of Jesus. During this season one sees an uncountable number of ways to celebrate Christmas, from lights and music in areas where the reason for Christmas is hardly known to frantic shoppers whose ancestors have repeated the story of Jesus' birth numerous times to worshippers gathering to sing songs and worship Jesus and his God.
I have been and still am among the latter for seventy years. Each year I learn more about the holiday and every year more traditions are added to the holiday to the point that the Christian reason for the season has faded to only a small spark among a decreasing number of people. I wrote in a earlier blog about peeling away the excess to get to the true meaning of Christmas or any other tradition that matters.
Neither theology nor philosophy have ever been my forte, even though at one time I referred to myself as a mathematician, and early Greeks who wrote of mathematics were called philosophers. Thomas Jefferson was one whom I chose as a philosopher for a paper during my Masters studies even though he probably never is found on a list of famous great philosophers. Jefferson was chosen because he was a thinker, famous for other reasons, and not one who limited his thinking to philosophy. Perhaps he remains my model but far above my frail capabilities. So my thoughts pale among great thinkers and yet I continue to think.
On Christmas Day we attended a service in a Catholic church. The service was full of traditions with which I am familiar and have held in high value. It also included many actions with which I am not familiar. As I reached for the meaning of Christmas or the reason for the life of Jesus or the message of Jesus, I saw much I could peel off to reach the essence of Christmas. Chants, artifacts, postures and words created by man to define a relationship of God, most of which was unfamiliar to me, were all a part of this rite.
Even as I peel away this features, I appreciate and celebrate the vitality these features bring people, God's people. These celebrations strengthen men and women and encourage them to strive to be better. If only we could find the common denominator of all faiths and philosophies to improve the plight of all people.