Plaque at Immaculate Conception Church on ColfaxFor many years now, I’ve had mixed feelings about Christmas, and I’m asking for your patience with my honesty about them.

Until my mid-teens, I was a devout Catholic, and then Christmas was a bona fide religious holiday for me. Since I’ve lapsed, about thirty years ago, it can no longer be that way. The memory of devotion is still there, but I can’t recapture it. So my relationship to Christmas has changed.

For one thing, I no longer worship Jesus Christ. I do wish that I were better at following his teachings, though I reserve the right to reject some. But because I no longer believe in sin (good and evil are enough to cover the vagaries of the world, I think), I no longer feel a need to be saved.

People I know may have a different opinion, of course.  🙂 And they may be right.

And, of course, there’s the Jesuit saying that if they’ve got you until age seven, they’ve got you for life.Beth at Tincup house, Broomfield, CO 2008

If I were to pick from among Christ’s teachings to implement in my life, I would choose “Judge not, that ye not be judged,” and the one about the speck in thy brother’s eye.

I frequently have a bad case of “speck in the other’s eye” and need to be gently reminded about the boards in my own eyes. And my husband, who is an atheist, is the best person I know at not judging others, at simply letting them be.Todd at Tincup house, Broomfield, CO 2008

So for today I am simply letting Christmas be the variety of things it has been in my life—religious holiday, source of wonder, source of presents, occasion to spend time with family, the season of light (which it shares with the winter solstice), retail fantasyland and horror story, and occasion for measuring what I’ve done in my life.

If I could let it all go, I think I would simply appreciate how the earth is turning toward light and longer days and fruitfulness. I would use the solstice to go inward and evaluate how I’d done in the past year.

Someday I would like to spend the holidays at a contemplative religious retreat. That is, if they’d take me after what I’ve just said. Somewhere I could be still, and listen to my heart.

That sounds like the best kind of present to me.Alec's decorations that won a grant for celiac disease from KFC

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  1. BernardL December 26, 2008 at 8:50 am - Reply

    I grew up a Catholic too; but although I no longer am an active church goer, something a Nun said in answer to a question I posed to her when I was eight stayed with me all my life. During the weekly teachings of mortal and venial sins, I asked her what happens to all the people who don’t even know God exists, or don’t believe as we do? Would they go to hell, even though they lived good lives? She told me the knowledge of God exists in everyone’s heart and soul, and goodness is never punished. I didn’t do the followup questions springing into my young mind as to how come I have to go to hell for missing mass, because I sensed a simple completion in her answer that explained everything for me. 🙂

  2. Beth December 26, 2008 at 9:31 am - Reply

    Yeah, that is a great answer, Bernard.

    A friend of mine once comforted me in a similar way. She said she worried about her Jewish friends going to hell. But then she decided that Jesus had saved everyone, regardless of whether they believed in him.

    Thanks for commenting, Bernard. I really appreciate it.

  3. Deb December 26, 2008 at 10:54 am - Reply

    Well Beth, at least you were given the opportunity to be taught scriptures and the like. Rick was raised Catholic and being Catholic has gotten his Mother through many impossible happenings. However, as Rick and I both have questioned our own beliefs, we find that we want to believe in someone/something that can “save us” from ourselves in many ways. Yet, Rick really feels that the Bible was written as a novel. Evolving as more people read it and change the wording to reflect how they see things – thue The Book of Mormon. I have hope and faith and love, yet I do not have the forethought that says everything happens for a reason and that it is all God’s Will and that we should rejoice for the death of someone because now they are at peace within Heaven. I, like Todd, have more of a scientific approach about creationalism (right word?). After visiting some ruins in AZ as well as the Tulum ruins, and seeing the Solstice windows that were made thousands / millions (maybe even billions) of years ago, I beleive that those “Gods” which were worshiped (God of light, and thunder and fire, etc)Were all part of explanable creations, and were not God’s at all. So I too struggle with how I feel. Christmas for me is a time to gather, and rejoice that I am so blessed by having friends and family, and dogs and grass and tree’s and air. Should I thank Jesus Christ for all of this, maybe…

  4. Beth December 26, 2008 at 11:14 am - Reply

    Yes, Christmas is a good time to gather everyone together. I think the church fathers decided to celebrate Christ’s birth around this time because it is the time, traditionally, when people are gathered (because it’s too damn cold to go outside!). So it makes sense from a natural-cycle point of view.

    I like the idea of the creator being one–in other words, whatever we worship, we are worshipping some aspect of the creator, maybe all that we can perceive at this particular point in our lives.

  5. Sybil Baker December 29, 2008 at 7:07 am - Reply

    Beth–I really enjoyed this! I hope your Christmas was all that and more.

  6. Deb December 29, 2008 at 8:30 am - Reply

    Christ’s birth date has always been the one thing that the Jahovah’s Witnesses have used to try to convince us that all Christians are wrong in their beliefs. Perhaps your reasoning behind the celebration of Christmas is correct. Makes as much sense as most of the stuff (I would use the word propaganda, but that might be too strong a word.

  7. Beth Partin December 29, 2008 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Sybil.

    Deb, I’ve always thought that having a really really strict practice for Christmas sounded sad–why force your children to separate themselves so much from the main culture? But I guess that’s the point, isn’t it?

  8. Deb December 29, 2008 at 2:25 pm - Reply

    I hated being one of the kids who celebrated the holidays including birthdays in front of the couple kids who had to sit at the table isolated at school. Being a room mother at a parochial school was so easy. Excpet, Catholics do not celebrate Halloween, instead it is All Saints Day – ever heard of a Saint Brew instead of a witches brew?

  9. Beth Partin December 29, 2008 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    No, I haven’t. But my parents always took me around trick-or-treating, so they couldn’t have minded Halloween too much.

    I’d like to celebrate the Day of the Dead in Mexico sometime. I think that would be fun.

  10. Jessie January 16, 2009 at 3:48 am - Reply

    my christmas presents…

    It is about time someone wrote about this….