I dashed off yesterday morning to do the last of my Christmas shopping. Along the way I passed a Baptist church and couldn't help but notice their sign:
Jesus is the best gift of all!
No scripture was quoted but immediately I thought of John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
I suppose I've softened towards Christians after my departure from that worldview. I'm no longer bitter. No doubt caring for my aging mother - who is quite the Christian - has had a lot to do with that. Also, the process of aging and looking back to my childhood has had some effect.
The Jesus of the canonical gospels impresses me. I only wish most of the Christians I know (the majority, I must say, only nominal Christians, even here in the U.S. Bible Belt) took their commitment more seriously. Even though they are ever ready to proclaim "Jesus is the reason for the season," it is glaringly obvious in watching their lives that they make no serious effort to emulate their "master."
Theologians down through the ages have made the story of Jesus something mostly repugnant. Some theories of the atonement are shocking and present a solid barrier for some (me included) against acceptance of the Christian religion.
The details of the birth of Jesus as related in the gospels of Luke and Matthew present contradictory details and perhaps historically inaccurate statements. And then there is that miraculous conception and virgin birth that rattle the modern mind.
My Christmas celebration is more secular in nature. I am going to put up my fiber optic Christmas tree tonight. (I haven't done it yet because I'm afraid my cat will destroy it.) I'll be taking some time off from work after Tuesday and will better be able to guard it.
And I've been working my way through my collection of Christmas specials on DVD, which includes five versions of Dickens' A Christmas Carol (the George C. Scott version being my favorite). The classic movie A Christmas Story will find its way into my celebration.
I always go with non-religious gift wrap paper and Christmas cards. It's not that I think I would offend anyone otherwise, I just don't want to present an image that isn't me.
The best gift for me is "the milk of human kindness," which is given in abundance at this time of year.
Yet still the story of Jesus has the power to tug at my heart.