December 24th, 2007

Let me see..

Small, Medium, Large, Xmas

Here in Spain, the Christmas Eve custom is to have a festive dinner with your extended family, then go to "Mass of the Roster:" midnight Mass.

I'm not doing that -- because my relatives are far away, and because I'm not Catholic.

In fact, I'm Unitarian Universalist, a denomination little-known in the United States and unknown in Spain. It's a faith that gives me peace during the holidays.

That's because UUism has no creed, just a practice: freedom of religion even within the denomination. I can take religion seriously without having to believe anything embarrassing. Religion can be reasonable and even liberal.

Was Jesus born on December 25, with a star and a Virgin mother and three wise men tracking him down and all that? No, I don't think so. It's just a pretty legend, and if any part of the legend were true, it didn't happen on or around December 25, anyway. History says that date was picked because it was (more or less) the solstice.

Is Jesus the Savior? That depends. Save us from what? Damnation? To believe that, I'd have to believe in hell, which I don't -- or in heaven, for that matter. Or in an afterlife. Or in a God that does reaches down to make miracles on this planet. There might not be a god at all -- but note that other UUs may feel very differently about all these beliefs. It makes for some interesting church services.

I think the best Jesus could do is save us from ourselves, and I'm much more interested in the religion of Jesus rather than the religion about Jesus. A Unitarian minister in Massachusetts, Edmund Hamilton Sears, wrote a Christmas carol in 1849 that called for "peace on the earth, goodwill to men." That would be a nice start. The lyrics:

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heaven's all gracious King!"
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.