Christmas 2011

Last night, I went with my Mom and her husband to Christmas eve mass at a Catholic church.  This morning, I went to my Presbyterian Church (USA).

As those of you who have read my reviews of David Marshall’s works can probably tell, I can easily become skeptical when it comes to the Bible and religion.  I had some of that skepticism last night, as I wondered how exactly I should feel during the service, when I was not even certain that we were celebrating a real event in history!  But some things in that service, and in this morning’s service, and in my reading of Marshall made me more of a believer in Christianity.  I thought about the stories about Jesus doing good for people, as well as what David Marshall says about Jesus’ humility (even though Jesus also made quite exalted claims about himself in the Gospels, as Marshall points out), and how that has inspired many followers of Jesus to love the sick, the oppressed, and the marginalized, and to do so with humility.  The priest last night talked about the light of God and virtue, and prayed that these things might subsume the vice that is within us.  I thought about John Calvin’s assertion that all people bear the image of God, which may mean that we all are like God in possessing the capacity to love, morality, a degree of intellect, etc., even though Calvin would say that the image has been defaced by sin.  Then, there was this morning, when the pastor talked about the restoration of God’s full image in us through Jesus Christ.

I didn’t think much about the atonement or who is going to hell or heaven.  I thought more about Jesus manifesting a divine sort of benevolence, and the hope that Christianity offers that we can become good, too.  I think that everyone has a degree of light when it comes to God, for all people realize that there is some standard of goodness (whether or not it is “absolute”).  This is true for those who believe in Jesus, and also for many who do not.  I prefer to think about how Jesus fits into that light, rather than focusing on how those who don’t believe in Christianity will go to hell.

One more thought: I grew up in an Armstrongite denomination that did not keep Christmas, and I used to talk with Jehovah’s Witnesses, who also did not observe it.  Both decried how Christmas reduces Christ to the status of a baby every year, when Christ is a king.  I have to admit that I was puzzled by some statements that I heard in both church services: when we prayed to the infant Jesus last night, and when the pastor this morning asked in his sermon what our gift will be to the newborn Christ.  I mean, Jesus is not a baby anymore!  But I also found a great emphasis on Jesus’ kingship in Christmas—-in the services, with the songs that we sung and the Scriptures that we read.  Contra Armstrongites and Jehovah’s Witnesses, we were celebrating Christ as king in our telling of the nativity story.

I’m glad to be with my Mom, her husband, and our kitty cats this Christmas.  It’s much better than the years I was alone during the holidays!  I hope that, whether you are alone or with people, you will have happy holidays this year.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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