On Scrooge and Christmas transcending First Amendment…

December 24, 2012

So this is Christmas. Well, Christmas Eve almost.

I don’t have TV reception (don’t have cable). So I have not watched “A Christmas Carol” (by Charles Dickens) this year (didn’t get the DVD either).

My favorite part is when Scrooge angrily laments that he will have to give his clerk Bob Cratchit the day off — with pay! Rob a man blind! He snorts. Christmas Bah! Humbug! he swears.

I had to laugh when the bosses where I work complained that everyone wants Christmas off. We don’t get it off paid, though (I don‘t think they saw the Scrooge-related irony).

There’s always a complaint that the true meaning of Christmas, recognizing of the birth of Jesus Christ, the primary Christian prophet, has been lost in commercialism. Actually historians say Jesus (the person who so much is written about, whoever he was) was probably born on another date in another time of year. But the Christian church came to realize that it could more easily promote its new religion if it aligned its celebration of the birth of Jesus with the existing pagan observance of the Winter Solstice — at least that is what I understand.

And here’s a strange one. I was brought up in a quite non-religious household. I have never been a church goer even in my adulthood. Yet, each Christmas when my children were young I read to them the Christmas story, or birth of Jesus, out of the Holy Bible.

Just as Santa Claus and shopping for presents or hoping to get them and Christmas trees and Christmas lights and Frosty the Snowman were all part of Christmas to me as a kid, so was that tale of the birth of Jesus.

As I recall it was re-enacted at public school programs. There were no complaints, as far as I knew. I suppose that does not mean it did not bother some people. Maybe Jewish people, of who I knew few, were not too keen on it. I don’t really know. My father was a non-believer but I don’t think it bothered him. He had his beliefs or non beliefs, but he was always live and let live.

I just enjoyed reading the story to the kids and maybe thought they ought to at least be exposed to part of our culture. Yes, whether you are Christian or not, Jesus is part of the culture in this country. Actually it’s just kind of like literature. If you are up on it then you have a fuller life because, among other things, you don’t feel left out when people mention the subject. And so much of our history and ways of doing things are connected to this story.

And I used to see hypocrisy in all the commercialism around Christmas, but really it’s just about celebration, and as it happens people often spend money in celebrations.

Oh, and these people who object to references to Christmas and Jesus and such in public places or at public schools — get a life! Yes, there is or may be technically a First Amendment separation of church and state conflict there and there are people of other faiths and of non-faiths, but who is really hurt? It could get out of hand if programs, particularly in public schools, got too much into the religious aspect. But as long as those involved use good sense and just have plays with mangers and shepherds in the field — hey it’s just a story about Christmas, a traditional celebration in this nation. Who has ever been hurt by it? I think Christmas transcends the First Amendment.

There could be an argument but then we have to have Islamic celebrations and so on in schools — and I have read that somewhere they do or at least have school holidays based on Islamic beliefs now (don’t know too much about that). Well maybe we could have programs recognizing various religions in communities where that is appropriate. School boards elected to represent their respective constituents can figure that out — no need to bother the Supreme Court.

Yes, so this is Christmas. And I am not working and actually I am getting paid because I’m taking a paid vacation.

And I can just here the bosses now: “Bah! Humbug!”

P.s.

In the interests of fairness and keeping my job, I have to say, and I am sincere, that my bosses are not really Scrooges, but I am an over-the-road trucker and in this business you get paid primarily on the basis of those wheels rolling — and not only do I get paid that way, so does everyone else connected with it really. And loads do move on or around Christmas. You know, that’s how everyone gets all that stuff, from basics to luxuries.

———————–

So this is Christmas

And what have you done?

Another year over

And a new one just begun

By John Lennon

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Christmas is for everyone, not just Christians …

December 25, 2011

So what is Christmas when you are brought up in a non-religious household?

My earliest memories of Christmas are riding in the car with my mother in San Francisco when I was only about three and seeing big bright neon Santas. And there was some kind of weird waxy candy like things in the store you could buy and suck on and at the same time have a mustache like Santa. And of course there were bright Christmas lights and Christmas trees for sale and candy canes all over the place.

No religious connection yet at that age.

Then we moved away from the city and at Christmas my brother and sister hauled out a pasteboard box filled with a jumble of Christmas lights. We had a tree in the living room and they proceeded to string the lights. But if one was not working, they all did not, because they were all in a single circuit connected to each other.

We had all kinds of ornaments and a top piece, but nothing religious, as I recall. And then by chance one year we replaced that top piece with an angel, but that did not signal some kind of religious conversion. We sure loved that angel, though.

But sometime early on it was explained to me that people who go to church celebrate Christmas in recognition of the birth of Jesus, who they see as the son of God, and of course I was told that some people believe in an all-knowing creator they call God.

But of course as a child what I really dug were the presents.

(Years later I would learn that some children never do get any presents.)

It was somewhat confusing to me that all the movies and stories and pictures of Christmas seemed to have a snow theme, with kids riding on sleds. It was explained to me that in some parts of the country winter means snow — not where I lived. It might be cold and damp, but no snow.

Still later I thought it incongruous with Christmas when the family went to the local high school and saw a Christmas play called Amahl and the Night Visitors and the scene was of palm trees and desert and the characters where dressed in Middle Eastern garb, something you might see in a movie about Ali Baba or something.

Okay, I’m skipping the part where I did attend some Sunday School with friends of the family, but all I did at a young age was color with crayons, as far as I can recall. I did not understand the pictures of Jesus working with his father doing carpentry work.

And that play at the school? Would it even be allowed today under political correctness and the edict that religion not be mentioned at public schools? Schools are not even referring to Christmas by name anymore, as I understand it.

Yes, I grew up in a non-religious household, but I learned little by little, from my own folks and others, what Christmas was all about, a combination of a Christian holiday, marking the birth of the Savior, a secular holiday much commercialized, and an all-around tradition that transcends the religious aspect.

There are countless stories of people coming home or wanting to come home for Christmas to be with family and observe the traditions.

I know when I was a kid there used to be much hand wringing about the true religious meaning of Christmas being lost to a commercialism. I don’t hear that as much now. It seems now it has become almost a sacred duty to spend as much money as one can to help the economy.

And then there is the question as to why should Christianity be favored and the country be forced to observe its holiday. But really that is just the way things are. Christianity has been the majority religion in this nation, but by no means the official religion — we don’t have an official religion because we have a constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion, and as I like to add, a freedom from religion. And Christmas has moved way beyond the religious celebration, rightly or wrongly. And it was an old pagan celebration marking the winter solstice anyway, before the leaders of the old Christian church decided to merge their observance of the birth of Jesus with an existing and popular holiday as a way to get more attention for their message (the person known in history as Jesus was probably born at a time of year other that Christmas, it is believed).

So to those who complain or want to take Christmas out of Christmas, I say get over it. Christmas is not hurting you, make it be what you want it to be. Or don’t observe it yourself. Just don’t spoil everyone else’s fun.

There is one slight problem, though. If we, say, let the schools celebrate Christmas, one day we may be forced to celebrate Muslim holidays (I have heard one or more schools do already, not sure) or those of other religions, and then that opens up a whole can of worms. But when I was growing up the schools did celebrate Christmas by name, with decorations and programs and such. It seemed harmless to me.

Apart of Christmas, we even said a prayer, mentioning God by name, before we had our Graham crackers and milk when I was in public school kindergarten. I don’t see how that hurt anyone. Why the school authorities thought it necessary, I do not know.

My children attended some Sunday school or Bible school classes with friends, but we were not church goers.

And for some reason, when they were small, each Christmas I used to read the Christmas story to them — part of it anyway — out of the Holy Bible, for my own enjoyment and curiosity, as much as for theirs.

Christmas is a combination of religion and tradition in the United States.

I would hate to see us ever lose it.

No matter what your religion or belief, I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

.

P.s.

If you have read some of my past blogs you will realize my own beliefs are not set in stone and have evolved over a lifetime, that is to say I tend to believe in some higher power who may be the same as the Christian God. I do feel it hard to reconcile why various religions profess the virtues of peace and at the same time promote the killing of others over their beliefs.

But that aside, may we all have a merry Christmas and may peace reign over all mankind!


Merry Christmas feelings inspired out in the desert…

December 25, 2010

BEHOLD! I BRING YOU GOOD TIDINGS!

It’s Christmas Eve Day as I write this. I’m working out on the long line as a truck driver but hope to be home by tonight or early Christmas morning.

But all is well, even though certainly not everything has gone my way this past year. I lost my wife. But some power, many would say the power of the Lord, has allowed me to go on and not only fend off the cancer that has invaded my body but to deal with the grief of losing my wife, who was my soul mate and closest of closest friends.

As I drove through the Arizona desert last night I viewed the beautiful sunset. It’s hard to get radio reception out there, but quite by accident I got a bible story and somehow the setting seemed appropriate and inspiring.

I did not catch all of it and it was not the traditional Birth of Jesus story, but it was about a prophet.

In those ancient times the Jewish people, often called God’s chosen people, were looking for a savior and better times ahead.

And maybe a lot of us are looking for that today.

I’m no religious scholar or preacher and I am, truth be told, not a church goer. But I suspect there is redemption and better times ahead.

And I suspect that, outside influences and powers notwithstanding, all that is available now within ourselves.

I think the story or someone commenting on it said something to the effect that the chosen people had failed to heed the prophesies and warnings and suffered greatly for it.

This is not something meant to promote Christianity or any other formal religion. I just think that although most of us need someone or something to show us the way, we will never get there without our own initiative and realization that salvation and happiness is within ourselves.

Those are the good tidings I have brought you, so rejoice.

P.s.

As I walked out of the shipping office I passed two men in turbans and bid them a Merry Christmas. Actually, wise guy that I am sometimes, I asked them if they knew the way to Bethlehem. Of course they seemed a bit confused. They are of the Sikh (seek) religion. But I explained I was only joking, but I just thought their garb seemed historical (they looked as though they could have been two of the three Wise Men). One of them smiled and wished me a happy holiday.


Back on the blog and Merry Christmas!!!

December 25, 2009

I’ve been off this blog for several weeks, well, actually months, because I got the proverbial day job, no actually day and night job, and on top of that, my computer crashed. Just got a new one — a wonderful and generous Christmas gift. It has taken me a couple of hours to figure out how to access my old blog site, but hopefully, as I key this in, I have figured out how to get back into this thing. This computer is different to the touch, and I am having problems typing (yes I began writing back when we still plugged away at typewriters, and right now this seems as difficult). I’ll get used to this new machine (yes you can tell I am of the pre-computer age by my use of the word “machine”.  I remember old folks, back before I was one of them, old folks, that is, referring to a car as “the machine”).

I’ll make this post short and sweet as I write this tonight, Christmas Eve, because I am tired beyond belief and excited at the same time that I am able to be back  in the blogosphere.

The devout Christians see Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus. Children everywhere, and adults just as much, see it as a chance to get some cool gifts or not so cool gifts, whatever.

Saw a letter to the editor in my local newspaper complaining that a public school had ruled out any reference to Jesus or traditional Christian religious songs in its Christmas program. This seems absurd to me. But then again, I have to wonder what folks would think, if say, the school allowed or put on a program with a Muslim or even Jewish theme.

I have never thought that the First Amendment prohibited children from praying or singing the praises of Jesus. The First Amendment is supposed to guarantee the right to practice religion — among other things. But of course, the government, or the public school, cannot support any one religion, so the only way the authorities can see to handle this is to prohibit any religious reference in programs altogether.

On a related matter, I am not aware of any school actually prohibiting individual children from quietly praying on their own, although, this may have happened somewhere. School personnel cannot be seen as sanctioning or promoting any one religion or interfering with one’s right not to be religious.

This post is kind of a ramble because I am tired and I am having a hard time navigating this keyboard.

But on this Christmas Eve 2009 I can only hope that we get something out of the teachings of Jesus and learn to enjoy the good earth and the blessings we have been given.

I do not know why we must fight wars, except in true self defense. But I do know from reading the Bible, which good Christians tout  everywhere, that war and terrible violence men inflict upon one another, not to mention the wrath of God, has been a fact of life since the dawn of man.

But Christmas is a time of hope. And I hope that we humans can change and learn to live in peace.

But life is a struggle over limited resources.

Nonetheless, Merry Christmas and a hope of peace for all mankind!


Behold! believer and non-believer alike…

December 25, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

A thought for Christmas:

As the biblical accounts go, the earthly parents of Jesus (son of God), Joseph and Mary, had to go to Joseph’s home town in order to be counted and taxed accordingly as per the edict of Emperor Caesar Augustus in Rome. And so, even though Mary was with child, they traveled to Bethlehem and once there could find no room at the inn. So, Jesus wound up being placed in a manger upon his birth, a box used to feed animals.

And that was the rather humble beginning for whom many have called the Savior or Messiah.

Shepherds at the time were out in the field “keeping watch over their flock by night.

“And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

“And the angel said unto them, fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David (Bethlehem) a savior, which is Christ the Lord…”

Indeed, it was such an event that three wise men were said to have come out of Mesopotamia to witness the coming of the Savior.

In this modern world, more than 2,000 years later, not so many of us are shepherds, but we are no less humble.

Many of us fear tough times ahead and we are even coming up against the time when once again we will have to render unto Caesar (today the IRS).

And while the practice may vary from individual to individual, our society as a whole is coming off a time when we have worshiped at the alter of the once almighty dollar, even while professing such to be against the principles set down by the babe in the manger who grew up to be the prophet of a great Religion — Christianity. Some even built huge churches and were exalted for what they had done, but seemed to be more interested in the glory it brought to themselves and in the gold and silver they could raise in the name of the humbly-born Messiah.

And through time, others were disgusted with what they saw and experienced and deserted the faith altogether.

But with the coming economic gloom and even catastrophe, the modern day Pharisees, the true believers, and even those who have left the flock, if the sky were clear enough, might look for the star to guide them, as it is said to have done for the Magi (wise men) from the Orient upon the birth of Jesus.

Even if such a star is not literally visible, it may be figuratively, nonetheless, in the minds of true believers and new believers.

It is not necessary that his be accomplished solely through the practice of Christianity. All the major religions profess much the same principles of belief in a higher power. Unfortunately, religions are often misused by mere mortals for the purpose of having power over others.

But the wise individual knows that true hope and belief lies between him and the higher power.

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!


The best you can hope for at Christmas…

December 22, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

My first Christmas memories seem to be of riding around San Francisco in a car with my mom and seeing giant neon Santa head displays on the stores.

And then we moved to California’s Central Valley and I recall my brother and sister pulling out a string or should I say tangle of lights and ornaments from a box in the living room.

They strung the lights around the tree my folks had bought off a lot – I don’t ever recall chopping one down up in the woods. Problem was, back then in the early 50s if one light bulb went out on one of those light strings, they all went out. But each light was a lot bigger than the ones you see today.

I remember in one house we lived in my brother and I slept out on the back porch. Dad had attempted to close it in from the winter cold with some semi-transparent mesh stuff that would diffuse some of the outside light. At four or five I guess I still believed in Santa Claus or at least I felt it in my best interests to do so. Late at night on a Dec. 24 I thought I saw Santa and his sleigh and reindeer, a kind of illusion from the diffused light coming through that mesh added to some self-delusion.

Through the years of my childhood, even after I had accepted that Santa was just a pretend thing, I was always puzzled that a lot of my classmates at school opened presents with their families on Christmas eve, rather than Christmas day.

It seems like all of my grade school teachers were brought up back east somewhere in snow country and assured us all we just didn’t know what Christmas was. There should be snow and toboggans and one-horse open sleighs with bells a jingling.

From my dealings with snow in my adult life, I’d say keep your snow, I’ll just take the gifts, please.

As a child, for sure, I never went wanting at Christmas. It did seem, though, that many of my little friends had a lot more presents and more expensive ones bestowed upon them. At the same time, I have to think back now and realize that probably many of my classmates got very little. I think we had a good cross section of economic strata in my classes, from the wealthy to the extremely poor. The poor ones probably did not say much.

I learned early on that not everyone was as fortunate as I. I lived in a home where there was never a question of whether there would be a meal on the table or a roof over our heads or non hand-me-down clothes to wear, or presents under the tree (not saying my folks did not have to struggle with that problem).

But I was only in first grade when I found out not every kid lived in a safe and secure home. I happened to walk past my own home one day and go home with a friend of mind, at his invitation. We both had notes pinned on us – something about a PTA meeting, I imagine.

When we went into his house we were not so pleasantly greeted by a man and a woman. They seemed a little cross. My friend mentioned something about the note, and the man ripped it off his shirt and demanded: “what the heck is this!?” He read it and grunted something. I don’t recall what the woman said. I got out of there as quickly as possible. I had never experienced grownups acting that way.

I had another similar experience. A little girl wanted me to walk with her to her home. I was a little reluctant, but she was insistent. So I did. We got to the old apartment building where she lived up a flight of inside stairs. At the entrance to the stairwell was a ratty couch with a spring popping out, and I recall seeing a hoe leaning up against the wall. “I used to have a little puppy,” she said. “But my dad killed it with that hoe.”

I got of there as fast as I could.

These were just some thoughts on my mind a few days before Christmas. All I can figure is that I was thinking that as a little kid, or even as an adult, the best you can hope for or be thankful for at Christmas time is to have a safe and secure home and a family who loves you. Christmas gifts are nice too, but they’re optional.