A fairly impressive snow storm which is keeping me in my house and deprived it of electrical power for about seven hours has reminded me that I live in the northern region of these incomparable united states, and leads me to wonder while I still do so. It has also served to remind me, along with many other things, that it is what we like to call the Holiday Season, or perhaps I should say the Christmas Season, in order to mesh more fully with those who amuse themselves (and others, I suspect) with the belief that there is a "War on Christmas." As most if not all of the wars in which we Americans have involved ourselves since 1945 have been long, grim and futile (one thinks of the "War on Poverty" or the "War on Drugs" if not the wars in which our combat troops engage), I'm inclined to believe the "War on Christmas" if there is such a thing will be much the same.
"Christmas" most appropriately rhymes with "Mithras", the Persian God who was born, of a virgin mother, on December 25th while shepherds watched even as other shepherds were apparently watching the birth of the Christ-child. These two contemporaneous and happy events were a source of confusion in ancient times gradually rectified with the triumph, as it were, of Christianity. This should be common knowledge, just as it should be common knowledge that the propensity to exchange gifts and engage in festivities this time of year has its foundation in a variety of pre-Christian holidays and rituals. Historians scratch their heads over the claim that Caesar ordered all in his empire to return to their places of birth for census purposes and various other claims made in those remarkable documents we call the New Testament, but ultimately this and the other oddities which make up the traditional Christmas Story (I can't help but wonder where the little drummer boy came from) are not pertinent to my purpose.
We've celebrated this season for quite some time, which I think is well and good. There is nothing wrong with celebrating. It can even be fun. It can be great fun for children, especially. It can make us feel good about each other, and even dream of world peace, for a time, much like a good stiff drink or two. Why not leave it at that?
I'm not sure just what those who ask us to remember the "true meaning" of Christmas intend, frankly. This may be a result of the fact that I'm not inclined to take what is called the Christmas Story literally. However, if I did take it literally, I'm not sure just how this would effect my conduct or that of others. I would presumably be joyous, just the same, and in much the same way. Would I be less inclined to buy presents for people, attend Christmas parties, etc.? I don't think so. Perhaps I would spend more time in church, sing certain songs more feelingly. After all, it's not time to feel bad yet; that comes with Good Friday, or perhaps Lent, but then we're supposed to be joyful on Easter, in any case. Sad, then glad; glad, then sad. That's the way of it.
I rather doubt there is any "true meaning" and think we err in searching for it in Christmas just as we err in seeking it elsewhere. It's all true, in the sense that it all happens, good and bad. We may ponder "true meaning" all we like, but would be better off acting as if we believed in peace and brotherhood than if we were waiting for someone to come and impose it on us.
A problem in believing in saviors is that we wait to be saved.