Monday, December 10, 2012

The Spirit of the Season

The cookie dough is made, most of the presents have been purchased, the tree is – wait, I’m Jewish, there is no tree. And that brings me to the logical discussion of…the spirit of the season.

For the Jewish tradition, this season is about celebrating the miracle of something that was only supposed to last for one day, lasting for eight days instead. In this particular instance – oil. So what do we do to commemorate that? Fry potato pancakes in oil. White potatoes fried in oil – if you ask me, the real miracle is that heart disease didn’t annihilate us faster than any oppressors. So I’m forgoing that particular tradition and just going with the lighting of the menorah, because I can get behind candle lighting of any kind, really.

But back to the season. To be honest with you, most of my friends and family have Christmas trees. I mean, who doesn’t love tinsel and lights and trinkets dangling precariously from branches, real or artificial? I personally have never owned a tree, but I have been known to string colorful lights over anything and everything in my path. Sure, I may not have known that there were fabulous accessories like those clear hooks to assist in this endeavor until about year three into it, but better late than never, that’s what I say.

This year, driving through my neighborhood, I am struck by the lack of homes festively decorated – a stark reminder that hurricane Sandy has taken its toll not only on the physical landscape, but on our spirits as well.

So what about Christmas spirit? It’s no secret to anyone who has known me for more than five minutes that I love all things Christmas – from the idea that our hope for the future rests in the innocence of new life, to the idea of believing in peace on earth and good will toward man. Plus, I really love the music – all of it. But more on music in a later blog.

Lately I’ve been contemplating the bigger picture of Christmas, the broader idea of what Jesus’ life was about, and how one person could be the example of what we are capable of at both our best and our worst.

If the life of Jesus was about anything, it was about the human embodiment of unconditional love. His life was the example of our capacity to heal the sick, care for the poor, welcome the outcast, and forgive no matter how grave or unwarranted the circumstances in which we find ourselves. In short, Jesus was human potential fully realized.

But if that was what his life embodied, then his death was the equal example of our capacity to hate, to betray, and to stand silently by when we most should not. And those are not pleasant things to look at, let alone acknowledge about ourselves. But changing those things would solve most, if not all of what currently ails our world. So isn’t it time we stop crucifying ourselves and each other and get on with the matter of loving each other? I think yes.

So this season, while I am enjoying the festivities and counting my blessings, I am also taking time to remember that there are those for whom this season is fraught with pain, those fighting life-threatening illness, whose loved ones are feeling anything but lighthearted. There are those whose homes have been obliterated, or who have no way to clothe or feed, let alone purchase a toy for their children.

The spirit of the season is about giving more than just the spare change in our pockets; it’s about giving that best piece of ourselves in service to others, regardless of what it looks like.

So maybe I cling to the hope of man’s inherent goodness because there is so much need for it. Or maybe it’s because I know that we are capable of so much more than we’ve historically exhibited. Whatever the reason, I believe that within every act of human kindness lies the proof of God’s existence, whatever your particular religious or spiritual leanings.

So this is the time of year I get to make my case for love being the only choice that makes any sense for our world. It’s the time people are more receptive to the notion that miracles are not some ancient biblical thing never to be seen in our lifetimes, but rather a common, everyday occurrence if we would just look for them, but more importantly, if we would look to be that miracle for someone else.

So deck the halls, fa la la, have yourself a merry little Christmas, but mostly – let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me…and you.

Peace and blessings this holiday season,

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