This evening I gird my loins and together with colleagues and friends go to lead two Christmas evening worship services. At five a roiling lovely thing with our children. At nine it gets serious, and hauntingly powerful.
And as a Unitarian Universalist minister who when trying to express my stance in life usually reaches for words like nontheist (think atheist without the angst), humanist (think whatever else might be true, our attention needs always to return to the matter at hand) and Buddhist (Gautama Siddhartha’s analysis of our human hearts, washed through Taoist sensibilities and made visceral by the masters of Zen in China and Korea and Japan), one has a right to ask about what it is I’m up to celebrating Christmas.
Another of the ways I describe myself is, with a tip of the hat to good old Erasmus, to claim a physiology of faith. My brain is Buddhist, my stomach is humanist, but my heart, friends, is Christian. I learned to read at my grandmother’s knee, she holding a large illustrated Bible on her lap. In the King James version, of course. As my people like to say if it was good enough for Jesus…
My dreams are populated by those figures out of the ancient near east, completely mythical ones like Abraham and Sarah and Moses and Miriam, and those with some historical bones upon which myth has been layered like Jesus and the Marys. I know their stories. Their stories inform my own life and give it the color and shade of our common humanity.
We’re not just apes with good thumbs, we have mouths that speak and, my, the stories we can tell.
The important ones are those that open our hearts to who we are and what we can be.
And out of my natal lineage, my Christian origins, it is not Easter, but Christmas that sings into the deep places for me.
Of course we each have our own part in the great song of humanity.
But, today, this evening, I find hints of the melody of life and death echoed in the songs of my ancestors.
And, I find I am grateful.