Category: Intersect

 

Intersect 3-20-17

Monday Meditation
God of graceful brilliance,
adjust my eyes
that I might better see you.

Adjust my mind
that I might better understand you.

Adjust my hearing
that I might better listen for you.

Adjust my voice
that I might only speak
encouraging words of comfort.

Adjust my frequency
that I might always tune into your loving energy.

I know I too often get caught up
in the ways of the world.
I pretend I don’t have time for you.
I ignore you when you’re near
and beg for your presence
when you’re far away.

I forget that
you are never far away,
it’s just that I haven’t bothered to
pay you any attention.

So, from now on,
I promise to pay attention.
I won’t take you for granted.
I will acknowledge that
you are my life force,
you are my loving being,
you are my miraculous beginning,
my consciousness-expanding middle,
and my glorious end.

Thank you, Lord,
for walking with me,
for being patient with me,
for nurturing me,
and for pushing me ever forward,
even when I do my best
to swim against your loving current.

In your many names and images, I pray. Amen.

Intersect 3-13-17

Monday Meditation
Infinite and infinitely loving God,
we turn our hearts, minds, and souls to you,
and beg you
to remove the veils
that prevent us from
seeing the world,
and each other,
through your eyes.

Remove the veil of fear,
which causes us to build walls
instead of bridges;
which makes us tremble
behind enclaves of excuses
instead of creatively coexisting.

Remove the veil of hatred,
which starts arguments
that turn into feuds
that become world wars,
simply because
we cannot see,
as did Jesus,
beyond the things that divide us
to the divinity that
is the core of every human being.

Remove the veil of envy,
which causes us to hate
rather than love
our neighbor;
which keeps us in
a constant state of desire
for material things;
and prevents us from
ultimate fulfillment through
a more profound relationship
with you.

Remove the veil of greed,
which causes us
to take advantage of others
and creates the misguided idea
that it’s every person for themselves,
when the truth
beyond the veil is that
we’re all in this together.

God, who is always making things new,
remove these veils and
grant us new vision,
so we see each other as brother and sister,
divinely connected souls of love
living and working together
in harmonic resonance with you,
the melody of the Universe.

We pray for courage and strength
as we do the hard work
of seeing beyond the many veils
keeping us from wholeness,
unity and peace.

Remind us we are not alone in this task.
Remind us that you,
our loving Creator,
our eternal Sustainer,
are always with us,
encouraging and supporting
us on our journey,
by igniting and fueling
the light of Christ
living within us all.

May it be so.

Intersect 2-8-17



The Dirty Cross
A few weeks ago, as we were trying to keep the sanctuary straight through all this construction mess, we were moving the cross from the information table to the coffee table.

When we went to move it, we noticed it was pretty scarred. Someone said, “This cross really needs cleaning!” I almost agreed out of rote, until I looked at the cross, and for some reason, it just struck me as appropriately dirty. You know?

Our cross is silver, so it’s now all tarnished and fingerprinted. We’ve been in the middle of remodeling our new space for about a year. During that time, we’ve had to move the altar, the band, the chairs, slide projectors and sound equipment nearly every week.

To be honest, over the course of remodeling we’ve neglected our cross a bit.

I hadn’t thought about the cross in such a long time, that seeing it now, all messed up, kind of bloodied, gave it a meaning I’d never considered before: The Cross is supposed to be dirty.

Now, I’ve struggled to identify with the cross. For most of my spiritual journey, I’ve seen it as a repugnant symbol of the worst aspects of our inhumanity to each other. I thought it detracted from Jesus’ message of love and service. To me, Christians focused too much on Jesus’ death and not enough on the resurrection. Furthermore, the cross is and always has been a symbol of the ancient Roman Empire, then the “holy” Roman Empire. Considering that the Empire has done Christianity no favors—in fact, it was Roman thought that polluted Jesus’ original message, I admit I have purposefully neglected the cross as a symbol of my fellowship with Jesus.

But, as it is with anything you chew on for years, I think I am finally starting to understand what all the fuss is about. At least, I’m finding a way for the cross to be powerfully symbolic without it having to be about God dying on the cross to save our souls from an eternity in Hell.

Let me be clear about this. In my way of thinking (and the thinking of other modern theologians) Jesus did not die on the cross in some sort of cosmic murder-suicide pact with God, as a ransom for all human sin. This is Paul’s interpretation, and it became the standard interpretation in a world ruled by the oppressive, cruel, and often debauched Roman Empire.

Now, I know some of you are hearing Paul’s voice in your heads. “Jesus died to sin once for all” (Romans 6). It’s the idea that Jesus was a ransom to God for our errant human ways.

While this has become “creedal” for many Christian sects, the truth is that atonement was simply how early followers of Jesus reconciled the death of their Messiah in the most ignominious way: on the Roman instrument of torture reserved for traitors. The cross. Early Jewish-Christians felt that Jesus’ death must have had cosmic significance because they couldn’t otherwise comprehend how the Messiah could be killed in such a demeaning manner.

Paul carried this idea even further by creating a systematic view of Jesus’ death that’s come to be known as substitutionary atonement.

For Paul, Jesus’ death isn’t just a cosmic event, it’s the cosmic event—an “out with the old, bad world, in with the new, Christ-like world,” and he expected this major change—this major change in human nature, during his lifetime.

But the truth is that Jesus died for treason—that’s the official charge recorded in The Bible. Jesus died for treason caused by his willingness to go to the cross in service to God. It is this dedicated, single-minded service to his vision of a world of peace, love and mutual human respect that leaves the cross a bloody mess.

Jesus doesn’t pay a high price for our redemption. He pays a high price for speaking out against injustice and being completely loyal to his vision of a just and forgiving God—a God of unconditional, absolute love.

The cross is supposed to be dirty.

How do we reconcile Jesus’ teaching of a God of grace and love with Paul’s idea that God demanded a human sacrifice? If we’re honest, we can’t. We cannot reconcile those diametrically opposed ideas. So, me, I’ll go with Jesus’ view of God, rather than Paul’s theories about the meaning of Jesus’ death.

This freedom from Paul’s theology—appropriate for his era but inappropriate for ours—allows us to rethink the meaning of the cross not as an act God committed through Jesus “once for all,” but instead as an act Jesus once committed as an example for all.

No, the cross is not where a petty God demands the death of “his only begotten son,” it’s where humanity intersects with divinity.

The cross is where human being and God consciousness become one. The cross is where Christ is in Jesus is in us, inseparable, a single, unified entity of love.

The cross is the place where God meets us as we are, all our faults, all our sins—absolutely our sins, and then, without judgment, washes it all away. Washes all our human suffering, our faults, our mistakes and missteps all onto that cross. This is why the cross is supposed to be dirty.

Jesus taught about a God of forgiveness. There’s no indication in any spiritual text I’ve ever seen that there is a limit on how often we can be forgiven. Nor have I ever seen anything that indicates God, even after Jesus, doesn’t expect us to mess up—frequently.

We are invited to visit the cross often and lay bare our souls because the cross is supposed to be dirty.

Whether, like Paul, we believe there was a cosmic event at Jesus’ crucifixion, or we interpret the cross more spiritually as the place we leave all our guilt, regret and sorrow—our sin—to God’s unconditional, forgiving, grace, then the cross is supposed to be dirty.

That’s still a fairly traditional interpretation of the cross. Jesus died to atone for our sins. I don’t take that literally, of course, but I certainly understand and appreciate the idea that we, like Jesus, should bare our souls to God.

We also need to atone—become at one with God, and what better place to do that than at that special meeting place where God Consciousness and human being intersect—the cross?

The Cross is where human and Divine meet as one.
Ever think about the cross that way? As a crossroads? The place where the divine Christ and the human Jesus intersect to change the world, to turn everything we think of as worldly power on its head?

How many times have we found ourselves at a crossroads, too afraid to lay bare our souls to God? To leave it all on the cross, to dirty it all up? How often have we obsessively polished our crosses because we’re afraid to mess them up? Well, stop it. The cross is supposed to be dirty.

Jesus bares his soul on the cross. He gives it all to God in an anguished plea for forgiveness. He asks God’s forgiveness for himself and, importantly, for his tormentors.

Jesus dirties it up real good because the cross is supposed to be dirty.

If we are to carry on as Jesus did, if we are to carry the cross—the intersection of God Consciousness and human being, then we are tasked to live with the same forgiving, self-sacrificing love of Jesus—even for those—especially for those—who would crucify us.

The cross—the dirty cross, shows we must be intentional about our relationship with God. We need to lay bare our souls often, and let God resurrect us, just like Jesus, ready for another day of simply being our best human selves.

Perhaps this is what is ultimately meant by the idea of “taking up the cross.”

We typically interpret that phrase to mean we are supposed to help someone with the “burden” of their cross. What if the cross is not a burden, but a blessing?

While we always want to serve those in need, I think Jesus also makes it clear that before we can help someone with their dirty cross, we need to get our own cleaned up first. Then we are to get it dirty again and release ourselves to God (atone) for cleansing, over and over and over again because, well, because we’re not Jesus. We’re not going to get it right the first time. We need that crossroads, and we need to visit it often, to release everything we’re carrying around to God.

We’re still working on knowing God as intimately as Jesus. And that’s okay. That’s what the cross is for—a place for us to meet our divine selves and get spiritually cleansed.

I don’t think this is as difficult to accomplish as we’ve been led to believe. James makes it pretty clear how we might go about leaving our dirt on the cross (James 1.19-21, NIV):

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Pretty straight-ahead. Be patient, be kind, keep cool. When we find that difficult to do, then James suggests we get rid of all moral filth.” I love that term, “moral filth.” I can picture it all over the cross.

James says to get rid of our “moral filth” by not merely listening to the words of Jesus, but by doing what Jesus says.

And Jesus tells us to go to the cross with 100% trust that it is not the end of life. Instead, it’s the beginning of an entirely new life. A new way of being. Being at one with God.

Jesus tells us to lay all our fear on that cross. He tells us to go to the cross, to dirty it up with all our pain and suffering, and to leave it there, where God intersects and inspires us to be better, to achieve greater, to change the world one person at a time not by worshipping a crucifix or worshipping at the feet of Jesus, but by being Jesus in the world.

By taking up his cross.

By carrying on his tradition of peaceful resistance against an empire of fear and loathing.

And most importantly, Jesus tells us to visit our own cross, often, so we can lay bare our souls to our God who has already forgiven us, who cherishes the person covered in dirt and filth, who promises to meet us every time we visit the cross, and who transforms us into the light of hope in a world encrusted in darkness.

So, go ahead. Lay bare your soul to God. Meet God at that intersection, that crossroads, and remember: The cross is supposed to be dirty.

Meditation: I am meeting God at the crossroads today.

Intersect1-23-17

Fair Food Follow-Up
During our 9am Wired Word discussion yesterday, it was mentioned that a list of vendors supporting the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) Fair Food Program initiatives would be useful. One of the ways we can help is by supporting vendors who have agreed to pay an extra penny per pound of produce. Perhaps more importantly, these vendors are also subject to oversight from a third-party workers’ rights organization.

The Fair Food program is a perfect example of The Sum of Small—the tremendous change that occurs one penny, one person at a time.

Here’s the Fair Food web page that lists partners:
https://www.aholddelhaize.com/media/1151/ahold_usa-fair_food_program_factsheet.pdf

This page has a great slideshow about the implementation of the program:
http://www.fairfoodprogram.org/about-the-fair-food-program/

Ahold Delhaize is one of the largest food retail groups in the world. They are working with other food retailers to create a new, “sustainable retail” model that stocks shelves with locally-sourced goods rather than shipping product all over the country.

Their commitment to the CIW and their Fair Food Program is available in this PDF:
https://www.aholddelhaize.com/media/1151/ahold_usa-fair_food_program_factsheet.pdf

Yesterday, we also discussed the Publix response to the Fair Food Program and their contention that this is a labor dispute. Since Publix negotiates with thousands of vendors, they feel joining the Fair Food Program would set a dangerous and expensive precedent for them. Some of us saw the logic in this; many felt it a poor excuse.

Both the Fair Food partners link and Ahold PDF show that one of the ways vendors are supporting the program is by only purchasing from recognized, participating growers in good standing. To me, this indicates Publix could help by just agreeing to purchase from FFP Certified vendors. But hey, that’s just me.

Thank you all for a terrific two weeks of debate and discussion. I’m feeling more hopeful and better about my own small role in trying to make the world more loving and peaceful. I hope you are, too.

Meditation: God, grant me patience.

Intersect 1-16-17

Monday Meditation
God of mystery and majesty,
as you give voice to
the bittersweet melodies
of the bluebird on the window sill
and the haunting,
ancient songs of
the blue whale in the ocean depths,
I pray you also
give me voice.

Speak love through me.
Calm the anger that
bubbles uncontrollably within me
caused by a world
full of lies, half-truths, intentional misleading,
violence, and hatred of others
we are too dim-witted to understand
as ourselves,
too blind to see
as reflections of you.

Give us strength
in a world that is
unbearable to watch,
but to which we must witness
your unconditional love.

We confess
the current situation
has filled us with negativity.
Like Jeremiah,
Jesus,
and the other prophets of old,
we find ourselves lashing out,
warnings falling on deaf ears
as we overturn the tables in the temple
out of sheer frustration.

We pray, dear Lord,
that you transform
our negative energy
into positive action.

Make us instruments of your peace,
a mouthpiece for justice,
our entire being
a finely-tuned love song to you,
our souls singing
a glorious song composed by you,
a song that warms
even the coldest of hearts.

We pray today
not only for changes in our souls,
but also for your presence
in the lives of those we love dearly
and those struggling around the world
due to disease, violence,
natural disaster, oppression,
and slavery of all kinds.

In these days
when all seems
dark and hopeless,
remind us that Christ
is still alive in the world.
Pour the Christ Spirit on us,
healing us,
and encouraging us.
Show us that
in these darkest moments,
there is still a light of love,
and remind us that
we are that light.

We call ourselves Christians—
followers of Jesus the Christ.
As you anointed him with
the ability to be and see
unconditional love,
please,
we beg you,
Eternal Holy One,
anoint us as well,
and we will do our best
to change the world
by first allowing you to change us.

We pray these things
in the name of
the limitless energy of love
we call Jesus Christ.
Amen.

Intersect 12-19-16



Monday Meditation
Eternal fountain of light and truth,
enlighten our minds,
enliven our souls,
and invigorate our bodies.

Transform us
into the likeness of Jesus,
filled with the living Christ,
in order to serve you
and all the life
of which you are
the prime element.

 
We look to Jesus
to understand
a more honest
and effective

way to live
as reflections
of your glorious being.

 
Help us continuously strive,
God of endless energy,
to sense your presence.
You make us feel more beautiful–
not in some superficial,

Monday night television sort of way;
but more filled–
more FULL-filled
with a beauty
that transcends description

and becomes the center of our being.
 
In those moments with you
we clearly see
we are not in competition
with each other.
Filled with your splendor,
we are elated; elevated,
excited to share you
with everyone on the planet,
so they too can
feel joy;
so they might
once again have hope;
so they might see
there is light in the darkness.
 
We confess, Lord,
that we have trouble seeing the light.
We are berated for being too this
or not-enough that.
We are conditioned
to see the scars and blemishes
of a human race
whose faith and confidence
have been eradicated

by the slow churn of indifference
and the dangerous blather of intolerance
 
We have blinded ourselves
to the beauty
that exists all around,
and within, us, every one of us.
So we turn to you,
our All-Creative One,
who has promised–
and shown us in Jesus–
that we are the creation of your love–
unconditional, all forgiving, eternal.
 
We ask to rekindle our love with you
so we can give more love to others.
We ask to be forgiven,
and for the ability to forgive ourselves
in order to more readily
and authentically
forgive others.
 
We ask for help caring
for all the people in our lives
and around the world,
who need your comforting
hand on their shoulder.
 
Ignite us with the light of love,
O Holy One,

so we can show others
that love leads the way
to a completely transformed world,
and the people who inhabit it.

 
Remind us, Eternal Essence of Grace,
that there is beauty all around us,
if only we would open our souls
and accept the beauty in ourselves.
 
If we are to be the instruments
through which you
defeat the darkness,
we must begin to
accept our inner Christ
and blaze a trail through

the inky night of fear
slowly oozing over our souls.
 
Help us see you through
the midst of suffering,
and help us show your presence
by being your presence,
to everyone seeking,
and seeking to become,
an agent of love.
 
We pray these things
in the name of love’s
 ultimate agent,
Jesus Christ. Amen.

Intersect 12-5-16

For December 5, 2016


Active Waiting, part 3
Throughout Advent, our congregation is studying the concept of Active Waiting. Specifically, we’re consciously attempting to practice Lee Raffel’s Active Waiting Guidelines found here: http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/Raffel1.html. I’m using Intersect to work through my own processes, an online spiritual diary of sorts. I’m also writing with as little editing as possible.

We left DeKalb just as I was to enter my last year of Middle School (8th grade back then). We landed in Dallas, Texas, for a year, then Austin, before finally settling in Moss Bluff, Louisiana. Moss Bluff is a sleepy little borough, all haunted swamps and mossy Cypress, about 20 minutes outside of Lake Charles proper. In the late 1970s the primary industry was petroleum, so much of the population was white working class. Even though I only lived there a few years, Lake Charles is the place I most think of as “home,” at least in some wistful way.

It was at Sam Houston High in Moss Bluff my innate love for music blossomed into passion. Nurtured by an amazing band director who taught me how to write down the notes that were playing in my head, I listened to everything I could to figure out the musical language my favorite bands were using. It occurs to me now that perhaps that is where I first learned to listen—and that Mr. Lambert was the one who planted that skill seed. Moss Bluff was a good season for our family. Mom and Dad were healthy—the importance of which we didn’t fully appreciate at the time. Who does though?

We took to the Louisiana culture like hogs to slop, as they say. Seemingly overnight, my mother started referring to herself as a “southern belle.” For some reason, nobody objected to this—even our friends who were native Cajuns. Everyone just started treating her like a southern belle! My mother, God rest her soul. When she got something in her head, that was it.

I’m glad I’m not like that.

Our neighbors and their kids—all around the same ages as my brothers and I, adopted all of us—not just mom. They introduced us to the food, art, music, wisdom, and history of Louisiana. It was a time for storytelling on the back porch, drinking Lemonade or Gin (or both), and casually swatting flies away as the dipping sun backlit the Cypress and tall pines, turning them into ominous guardians of the sacred Louisiana bayous.

Louisiana in the late 70s-early 80s was still firmly Catholic. Louisiana has parishes, not counties. The reach and influence of the Church were impossible to miss, although it’s easier to get a drink in Louisiana (drive-through!) than anywhere I’ve subsequently lived.

By the time we landed in Moss Bluff my life was devoid of any formalized religion. We never went to church or synagogue. Yet, I had this unshakeable sense that something was happening that I couldn’t explain with my senses. In Dallas, I had started reading and collecting books about Indian Yogis and Hinduism after a French teacher “randomly” introduced me to Paramahansa Yogananda.

By the time we moved to Moss Bluff, I’d studied, at least a bit, everything from Judaism to Hinduism to Zoroastrianism. I learned about Freemasons and Rosicrucians, ancient Isis cults and, of course, Atlantis, which apparently was amazing.

I had also decided that organized religion was a crock. It seemed to me that every time someone’s teachings turned into an organized “religion” that the teaching became diluted, ignored, or otherwise murdered beyond recognition. Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tze, Mohammed—their teachings became religions which became states which became empires which continue to rule the world through the gospel of bloodshed and phobia.

My friends in high school in Moss Bluff didn’t help the cause. They believed in a version of Jesus most Christians are very comfortable with—the one and only Son of God who came to earth to save it by dying for our sins. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this idea, of course. Redemption, love, and especially, forgiveness, are all attributes that would indeed transcend humanity out of this ghastly bog of hate and loathing.

I saw no reason to believe in Jesus as a human sacrifice to a bloodthirsty overlord. I saw many reasons to believe him—the way he lived his life and the peaceful, unconditional love of God he taught. Everything he said about being fully human and fully divine. Jesus taught about waking up and being better people because the power of God—which is love and nothing but love, lives within us all. We’ve just done an exceptionally good job of smothering our innate God particles with negativity, doubt, low self-esteem (ironically, often caused by religion) and a myriad of other reasons compounded by an ever-more noisy, polluted, industrialized, globalized world.

Once stripped of thousands of years of mythology, I found in Jesus a teaching and way of life breathtakingly similar to Buddha’s. Also, my Jewish experience gave me a different lens through which to view and understand Jesus. As a Jew himself, I couldn’t fathom how Christians could so mercilessly pick on Jews—the very people who birthed Jesus! But even today I run across someone now and then who insist Jesus was not a Jew. He was born “special,” always a Christian (this happened just a few weeks ago after a Thursday night meeting at The Current).

Oookay.

In high school, I began to understand Jesus as a mystic. Yes, he was special, but not in the way my friends—genuinely concerned for my eternal soul—thought. I believed differently, and it kept me away from both synagogue and church for most of my life—but never from conversation. That conversation continues today, and it has drastically altered the way I view Christmas this year.

Meditation: Know life’s experiences, good and bad, are opportunities for new learning.

Intersect 11-30-16


Active Waiting, part 2
Throughout Advent, our congregation is studying the concept of Active Waiting. Specifically, we’re consciously attempting to practice Lee Raffel’s Active Waiting Guidelines found here: http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/Raffel1.html. I’m using Intersect to work through my own processes, an online spiritual diary of sorts. I’m also writing with as little editing as possible.

When I was seven-ish years old, we lived in a little white house surrounded by a little white picket fence in the not-so-little town of DeKalb, Illinois. DeKalb had two (TWO!) claims to fame: A hybrid corn made famous by its deliciousness and “flying ear of corn” logo, and Northern Illinois University, home of the underwhelming Huskies. Yes, my early, formative years were lived in a Midwestern cliché.

Memories of that era play on my mind’s eye through cloudy puffs of nostalgia. In the winter, sunlight danced on a glistening white carpet of snow. Snow makes the world seem more magical, don’t you think? Perhaps it simply reveals the magic that’s always there.

When you’re a kid, Christmas is full of magic. Back around 1969, I watched as my entire town transformed into a winter wonderland. All us kids were on vacation from school. Every day was filled with snowmen, snow forts, sledding down the hills of the ol’ North 40 (a huge empty lot near our neighborhood that was snow festival in the winter, amateur golf course in the summer), snowball fights and, of course, anticipation.

What kid doesn’t get excited about Christmas? Even growing up in a mixed Jewish (my mom)-Catholic (my dad) household, Christmas was a big deal in our family. Both sides of the family are firmly Polish, with forbears emigrating to America with the great tide of new souls at the turn of the 1900s. And since Chanukah is typically around the same time as Christmas, we found a way to weave both traditions into a big extended family celebration.

Part of our Christmas day tradition was to drive to Chicago, about an hour away, to celebrate with my dad’s relatives. All the cousins and aunts and uncles would swarm on my grandparent’s house on the South Side. The smells of Kolachke, fresh polish sausage from Steven’s Deli, roasting turkey and ham and other delectables are as imprinted on my memory as playing the piano on the deck of my cousin’s house or playing “Operation” together after dinner. By the way, none of us became doctors. Probably a good thing.
 
As a young boy, Christmas was about family, friends, and food. I do have some hazy memories of going to Mass (in Latin) and Synagogue (in Hebrew). One of the first Christmas gifts I remember was a children’s book of illustrated Bible stories. It was massive, and I loved it. It had pictures of Noah and the ark surrounded by a bevy of beasts, gazing around an island backlit by a rainbow. It showed Moses, long white beard, insanity in his eyes as he delivered the Ten Commandments to God’s people. It showed Jesus, teaching people who sat around him in a circle hanging on his every word. It showed him hanging from a cross, bloody and beaten. I didn’t realize it then, but those early images burned into my psyche and were my earliest experience with the schism between Judaism and Christianity.
 
At the time, there was a distinct divide between Jewish and Catholic (the only Christianity I knew existed then) traditions. My Mother and Father’s marriage in the early 1960s was somewhat scandalous. I didn’t know this until much later, of course, because by the time I was old enough to know what was going on, the families had made amends with their religious differences. Still, Jews were Jews and Catholics were Catholics, and in my young mind, the only real difference was a squabble over the divinity of this Jesus fellow.
 
My parents tried to explain this religious schism to a seven-ish-year-old as best they could. What I remember is this: Catholics believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God sent to save the world. Jews think he was a nice Jewish rabbi. At the time, I suppose this explanation worked for me because I didn’t know what a Messiah was. As I grew up and we moved to different places, though, it became apparent to me that my Jewish heritage was problematic for a surprising number of people.
 
In my teens, Christmas began the inevitable transition from a holiday of childhood wonder and excitement over gifts to a quest for deeper meaning. What is this holiday about? Why do we exchange gifts? Why the celebration for the Son of God, Savior of the world, when it’s obvious the world is full of treachery, fear, and cruelty? Christmas was no longer full of excited expectation and sledding with my friends. It was instead rife with melancholy. It became disambiguated; a celebration for the birth of a Messiah who had, in my teenage mind, failed miserably at his task. 

Trying to talk with my Christian friends about any of this was blasphemy. They didn’t have answers to my questions. They hadn’t been told the background of Christmas. They didn’t know the early church picked December for Jesus’ birthday primarily because the cycle from Advent through Easter worked nicely with the winter and summer solstices, already celebrated by the world’s greatest religion in Jesus’ era: Paganism. My friends knew only one thing: Jesus Christ was King of the Universe, and if I didn’t believe in him, he would send me to Hell after I died.

Merry Christmas, indeed.
 
To be continued…