Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The message of a soulful Christmas: "Lighten up!"

Today Rabbi Michael Lerner offers Spiritual Wisdom of the Week – In Praise of Santa Claus! on the Tikkun Daily Blog, featuring sections from an article "The Eternal, Holy Night" by Thomas Moore, published in the November/December 2003 issue of Tikkun Magazine. Excerpts include,
"The most stirring songs of the season, "O Holy Night" and "Silent Night," and the popular verse-tale "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" explore the emotion of night, especially this night on which light once again shows itself. We honor this mythic night full of hopeful appearances – angels with their song, flying reindeer, kings bearing gifts of gold and spices, a lowly stable aflame with the brilliant arrival of the divine child.

Historically, Christmas was heavily influenced by the Roman festival of Saturnalia, a time of revelry and feasting when the burden of rules was suspended and values were turned upside down. Its arrival reminds us of certain values that we forget during the rest of the year. Why not learn from Christmas Saturnalia to be more forgiving and less moralistic, not to justify our existence by hard work alone but to find meaning in play and celebration, and to give more of ourselves to our children?"
In the 2003 article, Moore also writes,
"I like to speak of the soul of Christmas as well as its spirit. The soul of Christmas is low, embodied, tolerant, diverse, not always virtuous but humorous and earthy. The soulful side of Christmas comes forth in the preparation of family and community meals and the reenactment of traditional customs. I think we have it right when we go shopping, make cookies, sing carols, and trim trees. We might deepen these traditions by giving thoughtful, heartfelt gifts, contacting old friends, and giving more than usual attention to children. And we should all give each other--adults and children--at least one toy, as a symbol of our retreat from seriousness, ambition, and work. It honors the child in the manger, who is not an image of silly, naive childishness, but of new life, hope, fresh vision, and imagination."
Moore includes ideas that appear in his book, Writing in the Sand, published last year:
"The Jesus of religion is not a mere philosopher or teacher. He comes from another reality, and so at his birth there is no room for him at the inn, an image of accepted human society. He is comforted by animals, received by shepherds, and acknowledged by kings and wizards. By nature he is outside the box of normality.

To take him to heart requires being outside the box yourself, discovering that when you think radically about love as a basis for life and culture, there will be no room in the inn for you. You will be eccentric, ostracized perhaps, and eventually even crucified. You will be like some Gnostic visitor, someone who fell to earth to awaken those who have fallen asleep and have forgotten the wisdom that would make human life effective."

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