I can already hear the groans. “Here we go again!”, some of you are thinking. Another non-Christian is going to try to convince us that Christmas is not about the birth of the baby Jesus. As far as that is concerned, I’m not going to try to convince you of anything. There are many facts out there in many books, and publications, and teachings. What you choose to believe or not believe, what you choose to read or not to read, what you choose to have faith in or not have faith in is all entirely up to you.
The only thing I’m going to try to convince you of is how lucky you really are to live in the wonderful country of ours. How lucky am I to live here? Jewish people are no so popular in some other parts of this world. Neither are Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, and every one of the other thousands of religions or non-religions that I haven’t even mentioned. No matter who you are, and no matter what you choose to believe or disbelieve, there is a place in this world where you are pretty much not welcome, and your life is actually in danger because of what you choose to believe or disbelieve, or even just because of the color of your skin.
This is not true in the USA. We are a country of immigrants. Unless you are a Native American, you came here from some other part of the world. It’s OK. For the most part, you are welcome. I only say for the most part because some people are not here legally, and there are some who would say they are not welcome. What I would say is, no matter how you got here, if you are in a position to contribute to society, and pay taxes, and you are doing these things, then maybe it should be easier for you to come here without having to risk your life and worry every day if you will be sent back to your homeland. Even if you are unable to contribute due to illness, you are still welcome in my country. It is your country now too.
We in this country are not just tolerant, we are integrated. For the most part, we live our lives among people who may practice a different religion, or are of a different race or creed, and we do so without even thinking about it. We feel safe, we can learn about different cultures and religions, and expand our knowledge of people, and the world around us if we choose to do so.
On the other hand, we are also free to be intolerant (to an extent). We are free to protest peacefully against our government. We are free to burn our flag or a picture of our president publicly if we want to. We are free to hate, or be a bigot, and we are free to organize and segregate ourselves, and give our group a name claiming that we are the only ones that are right and we will show that to the world one day. We are free to live in our segregated little segments of society, and only hear the opinions of others like us.
No matter what we do, unless we are bringing harm to others, we can do it without the fear of our government shooting us, or burning us or hosing us down, or firing rockets at us containing sarin gas. We are not in a country which is being indiscriminately bombed, or where buses are blowing up, or where the government gives us land but then builds a wall to separate us from the land that is fertile, or food or medical supplies.
For these reasons, we need to be grateful, especially at this time of year. We cannot judge the actions of people in countries that we have never been to, and who are living a life that we hopefully will never experience. The next time you go to the grocery store, whether it be with your credit card or with food stamps, be grateful that you are able to eat. The next time you visit Bloomingdales, or the Salvation Army, be grateful that you have clothes on your back. And the next time someone wishes you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy New Year, smile at them, say thank you, and offer back whatever greeting you find appropriate because in this country, they are allowed to believe what they want to and so are you.
So what is the true meaning of Christmas? It is whatever you want it to mean? You have the right to be an individual or go along with any idea that organized religion has suggested. You have the right to choose, and be grateful for that, because even in this incredibly diverse and inclusive country that we live in it was not so long ago that brothers from the North were fighting brothers from the South, and African Americans were slaves, and women didn’t have a right to vote, and people were being hung from trees, and hosed down in the streets or attacked by police dogs, and sent to separate schools and even bathrooms simply because of the color of their skin. Things are much better today, but they aren’t perfect, and we could certainly digress. That is in your hands. Do we move forward by being one nation indivisible, or do we move backwards by seeing ourselves as the only ones with a grasp on the truth.
So the next time you are debating “The True Meaning of Christmas”, or what the proper greeting is for this time of year, just be grateful that you have the right to debate. All of us could have just as easily been born in a country where questioning anything would get you thrown in jail, or lynched. Think about it? What would Jesus do?