An essay donated by Susan Humphreys
What is the "reason for the Season?"
What is the “reason for the Season”?
Many Christians proclaim “Jesus is the reason for the season”, forgetting that Hanukkah, (also called the festival of lights) and many other days of celebration are also celebrated during this season. Hanukkah (from the word meaning “to dedicate”), marks the time when Jews regained control of Jerusalem and rededicated the 2nd Temple around 165 BCE. Peter Yarrow said this about his famous Hanukkah song “Light One Candle.”
“The flame is an historical reminder of an ethical imperative. It burns as burden, demanding sacrifice and struggle. But it also lights the possibility, the privilege and promise of a better world. We must not let the light go out.” 1,2
The date of the Christmas story as we commonly know it, is a fabrication, Jesus wasn’t born on Christmas day. He was born, most likely in mid to late September. The evidence is found in Luke:1:5 through 2:8, and 1 Chronicles 24.
Some of the world’s most beautiful music from Handel’s “Messiah” to Bach’s “Magnificat” (based on Luke1:46-56) and his “Christmas Oratorio” to the music of traditional carols from around the world, created to perpetuate a false story. I see the irony (celebrating a “truth” based on a “lie”) even if many don’t.
What is that “truth”? It is metaphorical truth that Jesus represents, that the figure of Jesus stands in for. That truth is of hope for peace and a better tomorrow. I’m neither a Jew nor a Christian but it seems to me that one of the BIG differences between the two faiths is that the Jews tied the hope and promise of a better tomorrow to their own righteous behavior bringing favors their way from their God (the ethical imperative Peter Yarrow talks about). 2 Many Christians (not all but far too many) tore the two concepts apart. They believe that God would bring them favors and blessings if they trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior -- thus downplaying the importance of “good” behavior that is required to make that better tomorrow a reality. It is that “good” behavior (how they treat their fellow man, ALL of them, especially those that are different whether from gender, race, ethnicity, or country of origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or lack thereof, etc.) that truly honors God -- not words, slogans, declarations of faith/belief or beautiful music. 3
Then to make sure the rending asunder was complete, many Christians seem to have given up on a better tomorrow in this life for a better life after this one.
The season is also a celebration around the Winter Solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year (at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere). The winter solstice occurs around Dec. 21st. The 25th was celebrated because that is when the day becomes visibly longer to human perception, proof that the darkest of winter days were over, the light is returning and with it hope for new life, new crops, relief from torments and tormentors.
Early Christians selected Dec. 25th as a way of denying “pagan” and Jewish claims to the festive season, turning a season for everyone into a season for Christians only. Over the centuries the day has been taken over by crass consumerism. What Christians took over for their purposes has been in turn taken from them. Another piece of irony: as you sow so shall you reap.
The traditions of Christmas Trees, Holly and Ivy aren’t Christian in nature but have pagan roots. Santa Claus/ old Saint Nicholas? Why don’t you do a google search and see what you can find you might be surprised.
The reason for the season? It doesn’t belong to one group or one tradition. It is a season for ALL, for renewal, for hope and peace, a time to lay down weapons (verbal and physical), a time to think of our rights and responsibilities, our duties and obligations to our fellow man and our planet. We must keep lighting more candles for peace and respect, religious tolerance, in the hearts and minds of people around the world and never let those lights go out.
- "El Salvador," Peter Paul and Mary, at: http://www.peterpaulandmary.com/
- Quote by Peter Yarrow: ""I believe that as a Jew and a human being, I have an ethical imperative to look at any circumstance that deprives people of their liberty. That's what fuels me. That's why I write the songs, why I sing the songs. Music is a way to repair the world." At: Erica Brown, "Weekly Jewish Wisdom: I write the Songs," Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, at: http://www.jofa.org/
- Matthew 25:31-46: The story of the sheep and goats.