For the last 30 years or so, I’ve risen on Christmas morning to go for a run at a local golf course near the home of my in-laws. While the families slowly tumble out of bed at their respective rates, my favorite activity is getting out for a 4-6 mile run.
Over the years there has been snow, sleet and rain on some of those mornings. But many times it is has been calm and cloudy with very little snow on the ground.
Years gone by
Crunching around the loop of that golf course on Christmas morning is a wistful experience now that all those years have passed. Those mornings when the kids were little and eager to open their stockings and some presents to wick off the steam of their eagerness, I’d wait to go for my run. There were plenty of years when I’d hold off altogether until after the presents were opened.
I’ve told the story of how one Christmas morning I went for a cross- country ski journey instead of a run. The snow was simply too deep for effective running that year. And while I was skiing I happened upon the shape of a wheel in the snow. It was a big circle with spokes leading to the middle where a dead Canada goose lay half-eaten in the snow. I can only surmise this was the work of coyotes. Why a wheel? Some mysteries are never meant to be solved.
That’s how I feel about Christmas too. I don’t really buy into the literal Nativity narrative that so many Christians seem to worship. All those wise men and sheep and cattle lowing over the Christ child…are in fact manufactured symbolism for the holiday. That’s why the so-called War On Christmas is nothing more than pathetic joke conceived by attention-hungry conservatives determined to make their politically constructed brand of faith seem important.
The Gospels themselves were written for marginally political reasons. The birth of Christ tale steals from tons of other religious traditions claiming a virgin birth and hailed by wise men.
So the original War On Christmas was conducted by Christians themselves. Very early in what would become Christian history, Gospel writers worked very hard to align Jewish prophecies with the tale of a Messiah come to earth. The Gospels were written decades after the death of Christ, and sequentially they go Mark, Matthew, Luke and John. Each has its own style and elaborations. Yet they ultimately lean toward a more spiritual view of Christ.
But not too spiritual. That was what the Gnostics and other sects of Christians wanted, a mystical Christ that shunned the material world.
Balance of power
So a balance was struck, and a politically acceptable version of Christ was born. It was helped along by Paul, the author that threw open the doors of Christ to Gentiles as well as Jews.
That became the Christianity eventually embraced by Rome and Emperor Constantine. Out of that Christian world emerged the Apostles Creed and other professions of faith.
Then Christianity made its run through the gantlet of the Dark Ages, when the Bible in Latin through the Catholic Church became almost a weapon against the people. That engendered a bold move by a priest named Martin Luther that helped lead to Protestantism. It was a protest against what Christianity had become, a source of power and control over the lives of other people. And a moneymaker too. This all served its role in bringing stability to a tempestuous world, but ultimately this too had to evolve.
Crusaders and conquerors
Because along came the Crusades, and battles with Islam over ownership of the so-called Holy Land, and Jerusalem. And both sides won, yet both sides ultimately lost.
Then the Christian world expanded to the New World, most often by violent means. Men searching for gold and wealth, power and status murdered all who stood in their way. It happened in Central and North America. It was sooner or later branded Manifest Destiny, which seems so far removed from the vision of a Christ child in the manger it almost beggars the imagination.
Christian conquerors then violently brought slaves across the ocean to serve their needs under control of the whip and chains. These conquerors transmogrified into racists claiming superiority simply for having the will to dominate. And these are not yet gone from our midst. They remain in white militias and dog-whistle power mongers claiming they want to “take America back” from the supposed evils of non-Christians seeking civil rights and equal protections of law for women, gays, the environment and soccer fans.
War Over Christmas
So you can see, the real War On Christmas is actually a War Over Christmas. The meaning of it. The history. Who rightfully owns the story of Jesus in the manger? Is it the conquerors or, as Christ once proposed, the meek who shall inherit the earth? Listen to the likes of men like Bill O’Reilly screaming at his guests in the No Spin Zone about the War On Christmas, and honestly ask yourself: Who really represents the Word of God?
The Genesis Fix
I’ve previously written a book (2007) that explores this question of who represents the World of God from an entirely different perspective. That book is called The Genesis Fix, A Repair Manual for Faith In the Modern Age.
It contends that there is a narrative within the seams of the bible that has been almost entirely ignored by the men (and women) who consider themselves conquerors. It proposes instead that Jesus was indeed that balance between the spiritual and the material man. Jesus taught using examples from nature as a principal means to communicate balance between our material and spiritual lives.
His parables, and the many organic scriptural examples of God’s creation used as symbols for the spiritual world (metonymy) throughout the bible, are directives for what we should all endeavor to achieve in our faith lives. We should respect creation first, and all good will follow. That is the same as respecting God, for it flows from the same foundation.
When I think about the Christ child’s humble beginnings, with domesticated animals standing around the creche, and a star illuminating the night above, it is this symbolism to which I adhere: That all of us should cease to focus on conquering, and abide more by the love (both tough and tender) and forgiveness that enables us to reach out to our enemies as well as our friends, and seek understanding. And above all, seek wisdom.
These are the things I think about on those Christmas morning runs.