Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas To All

Christmas is probably the least "Christian" holiday of the year. Jesus almost certainly was not born in the winter, and there is nothing anywhere in scripture about reindeer, white-bearded fat guys in sleighs, wreaths, elves, evergreens, holly, mistletoe, lights, caroling ... none of it. It is an amalgam of ancient winter-solstice customs overlaid with the story of the birth of Christ. I love Christmas and love to see people, Christians and non-Christians alike, celebrating this season.

I imagine a small extended-family tribe in the time of the dawning of human awareness. Every day through the autumn and early winter they witness the weakening of the sun, they see days become shorter and colder, vegetation loses its foliage, animals disappear, hibernating and hiding. If you didn't know what was going on, you'd think the world was coming to an end, running out of energy, you would feel doomed. Ah, but you did know! Some of the tribe's old-timers conveyed hope, telling the young ones, I have seen this before, our friend the sun is weakened now but soon he will be resurrected. It is possible the tribe had some rituals to ensure this, some sacrifices to encourage the gods to bring light and warmth back to the earth, that being the eternal way of magic. The hope would sustain them through the cold period, and soon, a miracle! The sun was born again! The foliage returned. The animals came out of hiding, with young. Evil was defeated and joy was returned to the world.

It is a phenomenon well worthy of celebration, and our celebration of this time of the year, the winter solstice, when the sun is at its weakest, is very primitive and fundamental to all civilizations that emerged in temperate climates. You don't have to be a Christian to celebrate Christmas. Christians have adapted the scenario to their story (or rather, adapted their story from the scenario), and it seems to me that the story of the birth of a man-god out of innocence, his salvation of the world, the eventual sacrifice of his life, and his resurrection make up a very good story, but it is not a story that is owned by any particular group. This story is seen in some form in Hercules, in Samson, it is a ubiquitous story and the sun's weakness at the end of the year is key to it.

Believe it or not, I went to work yesterday. Well, once again my family was scattered all over the country -- we're back together today, but the house was empty yesterday, so I went to work. There were only a very few of us in my office, and I was talking with a lady who immigrated here from Russia. She told me she had lost a twenty dollar bill. She didn't know what had happened, but she'd been out walking in the wind, and figured it had blown out of her pocket. She showed me how her pocket was designed, and it did seem possible that something could blow out of it.

She told me about when she and her husband first moved here, and they were so poor they didn't have money to take the bus. They lived in Germantown, and they were walking down Georgia Avenue to get to DC. She didn't say how they got there, but I assumed she and her husband had walked 355 to Veirs Mill, which is a lot of miles, never mind getting all the way down to Georgia. She told me how sad she was, walking, her legs were aching tired, she had just moved to this new country and they didn't have any money and life was hard. And then she said, "A twenty dollar bill just fell to us." She fluttered her hand to illustrate, and said it fell from the sky like a leaf falling off a tree. "So today," she said, "Maybe my twenty dollar bill will fall to someone who needs it."

I was looking at the blog statistics the other day. This year so far we have had more than 108,500 unique visitors to this site. Last year we had 80,369, in 2006 we had 54,452, and our first year, 2005, we had 42,252 unique site visitors. That's pretty good for a little group of activists involved in local issues. I'd like to thank each reader and participant in our community for checking in and helping us out, this has really been an amazing experience. Something that I am proud of is that this is the one place where both sides of our county's little culture war talk to one another. Actually, it might be the only place. The discussion gets heated at times but I rarely have to delete a comment; we have an incredible cast of characters here, intelligent, articulate, funny, knowledgeable, it is something else to watch the debates unfold.

This is a time of year when even the most cold-hearted of us feels the generosity in the air, our deepest human instincts draw us together in the spirit of love and desire for peace. I am hoping that our country will be resurrected after its long historical winter, and that peace and prosperity can be returned to the land -- it will take all of us working together to accomplish that. Blessed be all of our readers and all the members of, whatever your religious or philosophical beliefs, I hope you are able to be with family during this season. Merry Christmas, everybody.


Blogger Tish said...

Jim, that is a fabulous Christmas story. May I cut and paste the two paragraphs about your Russian friend's $20 on the wall of my church's facebook group page? I will, of course, attribute.

December 25, 2008 12:33 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Of course, Tish. Merry Christmas.


December 25, 2008 12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 20 dollar bill story is awesome.

Io, Saturnalia, to all.


December 25, 2008 5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrea- not anon
Today,we served a Christmas meal to women from the John Young Shelter and men from the Mitch Snyder shelter. It reminds me that whatever the state of my retirement fund or the value of my home- I must be very grateful for my job, my home and my family.

This week, someone sent me an article which bemoaned the loss of trust funds for children and wealth lost by extremely wealthy families- I wish that author could have been with me today.

December 25, 2008 9:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"whatever the state of my retirement fund or the value of my home- I must be very grateful for my job, my home and my family"

who are you grateful to?

December 26, 2008 10:30 AM  

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