Editorial | Christmas transcends Christianity
Thinking about it, the Christmas story seems quite implausible.
God decides to send His son to earth so that He can die, by way of execution, to ensure a path to redemption, until the end of mortal time, for humanity that has fallen afoul of His law. So, He orchestrates the human birth of Jesus Christ by having the Holy Ghost impregnate a young virgin, Mary, whose husband, Joseph, stands by her, understanding the divinity of the mission and the grace of circumstance.
It is that event, which Christians - more than a billion of them around the world - believe happened more than 2,000 years ago, will observe today. Many millions of non-believers will also be part of the celebration, drawn by the 'Christmas spirit' that, believers and non-believers alike, will insist, is pervasive at this time a year.
In part, it's the commercial aspect of Christmas. Marketers and retailers push consumers to purchase products to be part of the tradition of gift-giving, which, presumably, had its genesis in the presentations of gifts to Jesus Christ by the Three Wise Men who travelled long distances to find the newly born Jesus at His birthplace in a Bethlehem manger. Theirs was an acknowledgement of Jesus' kingship and His special mission on earth.
Whether we take the Christmas story literally, or believe it to be, at best, an allegory, or see the celebration of Christmas, with its pretty lights and its red-suited, white-bearded Santa Claus as a pagan holdover gone wild on commercial steroids, there is no doubt that the story of Jesus' birth is a powerful tale, and the ideals that it invokes tugs us to transcend and be better than ourselves.
For, in the midst of the feasting and exhibitionist bling that attend the season, there is, too, the deep sense of compassion, the capacity to share and willingness to forgive that are especially evident at Christmas. Even in homes where the Christian roots are tenuous, families will share meals, invite friends and strangers to partake with them and, in many cases, driven by the spirit of the time, bury disputes.
Such behaviours may not, for all of us, mean a cradling of all the critical Christian elements of the Christmas story: a response to a call to repentance and redemption and the embrace of eternal life. Nonetheless, Christmas insists that we acknowledge our humanity. In that sense, its themes are universal and aren't owned by Christians.