The “C” Word

“Merry Christmas” – there I said it – the most feared “C” word this time of year.

I have to admit, I’m getting a little upset at the lack of “Christmas” in Christmas.

I’m not one to stand on the roof top and rain fire and brimstone down on anyone, nor am I one to quote the bible verbatim or push my religion on the unsuspecting.  But I am also not ashamed to say that I celebrate Christmas in all its glory.

I realize that, as Canadians, we tend to bend over backwards not to offend, and on the whole, we do a very good job of it.   But Christmas is a Christian celebration and we should not feel the need to apologize for it.

This nation was founded and built on Judeo-Christian principles including our democratic rights, freedoms and responsibilities, our schools, hospitals and charitable foundations, our parliamentary system—in fact everything that makes Canada so appealing.

When I read this morning that a school in Peel Region decided to have a Christmas celebration in their school after years of not having one, I was encouraged—until I read the rest.  The children dressed in Santa hats, jingle bells, and sang The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Why are we so afraid to say “GOD” unless it’s in a vulgar way?  Why can’t we tell the story? Is it so offensive?  How could it possibly hurt a child of another faith to learn about goodness and grace?  Could we not teach all children the reasons that we give gifts?

How about the first real Santa—a fellow called St. Nicholas, or St. Nick , as we tend to call him nowadays? It’s not such a bad tale.

St. Nicolas was the son of wealthy parents who died when he was very young.  Being a Christian, he had been taught that it is greater to give than to receive and that in dedicating our lives to others, we receive the gift of great joy. 

In St. Nicholas’ town,  there was a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman’s father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry…the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man’s daughters, without dowries were therefore destined to be sold into slavery.

On three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home, providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. 

Behind all St. Nicholas’s acts of generosity and kindness was his faith. Would we not all be proud to have a son like him?

I suspect that many people shun religion with the excuse of hypocrisy and horrible acts that people have done in its name.  But the sins of a few, however grave, are not the true face of a gentle inclusive faith.

Others, perhaps, are afraid of having their daily lives judged as not “up to snuff”.  I, for one, have never felt that way (and trust me when I say that it wouldn’t be much of a stretch).

Having had the honour of attending the funeral of a wonderful man and then sadly shortly thereafter, his beautiful wife, I saw very quickly how strongly their faith spoke to me.  It was my first exposure to Hinduism and I found it enlightening and heartwarming.  I now feel a sense of community with those of a religion about which I knew nothing.

I would love it if my children could learn of the commonality of their own and other religions. It would only prove to unify us as a people if we took the best from all and stopped making it a contest.   But how can that be if we’re all too afraid to teach each other in case we “offend” someone.

Those who are truly people of faith would not be offended by me or anyone wishing them a Merry Christmas anymore than I would be if someone wished me a Happy Kwanzaa or Happy Hanukkah.

Once we can embrace and celebrate each other’s differences, only then will we be able to see clearly how similar we all are.  As a matter of fact, I’ve never met anyone, ever, who has admitted to being offended.  Could it be that we are only projecting onto others feelings of offence that are not true at all?

Try saying it a few times – Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas!!  We are all becoming so accustomed to the generic “Happy Holidays” or “Happy non-denominational holidays” (I heard that this morning) that using or hearing the  word “Christmas” will soon be classified as distasteful and vulgar as that other “C” word.

And with that, from my family to yours, Merry Christmas everyone.

(Just as an aside for anyone who lives close by, I invite you to join us one Sunday at Presteign-Woodbine United Church.  We have a fantastic new minister who is as insightful as she is intelligent.  It’s an hour of peace with a few laughs thrown in every Sunday 10:30 a.m (Jan 1st, will be at 11 for obvious reasons). The kids have their own time, and there is a nursery for the babies.

We are an inclusive congregation that fully accepts and respects each other’s differences.  The reflections are thought-provoking and relevant to everyday life.  It never hurts to be inspired to greatness once a week, so what do you have to lose?

James, who has no idea what he believes in as far as faith is concerned, says “you just couldn’t find a nicer bunch of people” and for that reason, he comes with me and ensures our children are surrounded by such fantastic, right-thinking people!)

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