Nurture your spirit, and the details will take care of themselves
By Jason Kimenker • Guest Columnist
Winter has arrived, and the holiday season is in full swing. Wonderful and warm traditions of family and community bring us together in this cherished season.
Holidays, or holy days, are celebrated year round, all around the world in countless communities, by many cultures and with many different traditions. In Western culture, and especially here in the United States, December is traditionally a very festive month. Friends, family, neighbors and community come together to share love and joy. Hearts and hands seem especially more open and giving this time of the year.
Whether your belief celebrates Jesus as the messiah or you still await one, or you have a different one, or you cherish more than one, or you do not believe in one, each and every day is still sacred, holy and deserving of praise. The very essence of our being alive and capable of sharing is a gift worthy of honoring.
Jesus Christ, the anointed one, the deliverer of light, said, “Ye are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) “Ye” includes us, as in you and I, and everyone else who believes this Truth in their hearts. Faith and unwavering belief makes miracles possible.
Another well-known holiday custom in our predominantly Judeo-Christian culture is Hanukkah, also known as The Festival of Lights. Jewish culture traditionally celebrates Hanukkah, translated as “dedication” in Hebrew, by lighting candles set in a menorah each of the eight nights of Hanukkah. As a Jewish boy, Jesus (whom we celebrate Christmas for and with) would have most likely celebrated the tradition of Hanukkah and of lighting the candles with his family and his community.
December also hosts other culture’s traditions such as Kwanzaa, another celebration of family, community and culture. In Africa, Kwanzaa means “first fruits of the harvest” and is celebrated by African-Americans not as a religious holiday but as a cultural one.
As the seasons change and we head towards spring again, the processions of days begin to get longer, and the nights begin to get shorter again, we may celebrate the winter solstice. For some this is a religious time, for others this is a sacred event, and for others it just signifies the change of seasons. We each cherish our own traditions and hold them close to be very sacred. Sometimes we forget to also respect and cherish our brothers’ and sisters’ traditions as those too are held holy and sacred. We do not celebrate everyone’s birthday, for example, but we can appreciate when someone else has that special day on which they can say to others, “Today is my birthday.”
Perhaps you will find me silly to suggest this, but for sake of light-hearted holiday spirit I often find myself asking “What church would Jesus attend?” or “Where would Jesus shop?” while in the same spirit I would ask “What would Jesus do?” or even “Who would Jesus bomb?” The answers are obvious for me, but maybe not so well defined for others.
These days television, movies, entertainment and advertising all vie for our coveted attention using tactics that will raise ratings, dollars and market share. These cultural experiences are integrated into our lives, for good and bad. When one turns on the box full of shock and awe, and someone shouts, “We must boycott this or that because they are taking away our faith and heritage by saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas,” and find insult that perhaps our own faith is not being celebrated over that of all others, then I am reminded of what Jesus said: “That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39)
I worry not about which holy day commercial enterprises exploit for our dollars. My faith is not eroded because of an advertising agency shouting words to buy this or that, or of a greeting celebrating an entire season of holiness rather than just one. Traditions change, truth does not.
Even secular traditions like Santa Claus, the reindeer, and the Christmas tree have changed over time and with different cultural distinctions. I let those who greet me with “Holy Day” express such as they would like and I take from it what I know as truth. After all, Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24) and no advertising campaign is going to sway my faith. I just respond joyfully, with the intention of love always on my lips and in my heart.
I worry not that our children will be corrupted by messages of praise to other traditions of faith. Believe what you will, but Jesus said, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That you may be children of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44-45) We seem to resist most that which we do not understand. So many traditions have so much beauty to share. Jesus told us to love everyone, even those we perceive to be our “enemies.”
I believe Jesus had no hate in his heart or mind. He would have embraced every day as a holy day. “Happy Holidays, Jesus!” one might exclaim as he walked by. Certainly there are great blessings to be had when we recognize the holiness of each day. Jesus, “Prince of Peace,” would share His love with all, not just those who believed in those beautiful Words of Truth that He shared.
As Emmet Fox so eloquently explains in his book The Sermon On The Mount, Jesus “made a special point of discouraging the laying of emphasis upon outer observances; and indeed, upon hard and fast rules and regulations of every kind. What he insisted upon was a certain spirit in one’s conduct, and he was careful to teach principles only, knowing that when spirit is right, details will take care of themselves; and in fact, “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life....”
Yet the history of orthodox Christianity is largely made up of attempts to enforce all sorts of external observances upon the people.
I will let the love of Christ shine in my heart every day, as each day to me is a holy day. And this season is truly one of holiness and sacredness. So I say to you, and share, “Happy Holy Days,” everyone, all around the world.
May our love grow stronger and our light shine brighter each day as we discover and honor the beauty and divinity in all of Creation – blessings of peace and compassion on your journey.