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Can A Former Christian Find Meaning In Christmas?

Monica Wilcox's picture

Photo with Estudios Extranjeros Parte IX- Prague

The thing is: I don’t know if I’m technically a Christian anymore. I’ve been silently debating this question for a decade now and have finally deduced that although I still mentally identify myself as a Christian, I am not.

I was raised as a Methodist by a Christian mother and an atheist father. The first big blow to my religious upbringing came at 16. It was love; not for my high school sweetheart, Matt, but for Shirley MacLaine, or more precisely her book Out on A Limb, which discusses Shirley’s spiritual journey investigating soul mates, reincarnation, and self-realization. It was a major publishing Pleap (Pink leap of faith) in 1983. Reading that book brought me to tears; it felt so true that my heart almost sang in the knowing of it. I had been content with Christianity for 11 years, but I became fully connected to the Divine through the concept of reincarnation. Yes, one book can change your life.

Complications with Christianity 

As the years passed I bumped up against other complications with the Christian doctrine. I don’t believe in a God of fear and punishment in any way, which led me to question eternal hell. Do I believe we can experience a place that FEELS like hell for a time? Yes. But I believe all paths, even the long dark ones, wind back to the Almighty. Yes, I feel that even a soul such as Hitler’s will eventually find its way back into the Light.  

I also have trouble accepting the concept of original sin. It’s very uncomfortable for me to follow along as a minister leads the congregation in a prayer asking God to show his mercy on us sinners. I always feel compelled to peek into the pews behind me to search out this “sinner” in the crowd. My soul just doesn’t feel that…filthy. I meditate on a regular basis and have yet to feel a moment of taint. Instead, I feel a pureness of light and love that is MUCH, MUCH greater than I will ever fully grasp. I’m aware of the struggle within me between the wisdom of my soul and the needs of ego but I have never felt anything inherit to feel ashamed or guilty of. I see people as doing the best they can with what they know. Struggling? Yes, but each of them possessing the very spirit of God within. I see more “holy” in the human form than that of “sinner”.  

Of course, this would lead to a conflict with the idea of Christian salvation. How can I ask Christ to “save” me from a sinful taint I do not comprehend? That’s sort of like calling in the fire department without a fire.

The Clincher

The clincher for my “Christian question” came when I fully admitted that I don’t believe Jesus is the ONLY path to the Higher Power. I just don’t see God as that limiting. Knowing the wide spectrum of the human experience and our human nature, I believe He has created many pathways, encompassing THE ALL; the greatest of these being the connection in our own hearts. Jesus was an amazing, enlightened soul who lived a life of deep love and Godly connection. He is a gift to the human race, but I’m not sure the makings of his soul were any different than mine, or yours, or the Muslim bowing to the East. Jesus was fully connected to the Light within, yet, I can’t emphatically claim he’s the only one to have accomplished such a feat.  

I’m a woman who believes in reincarnation, has disqualified hell, original sin, and Jesus as my only hope of salvation. I’m a complex spiritual puzzle who would be a challenge for any pastor. It’s taken awhile; it’s a difficult matter to step away from the religion you were brought up in, but I’ve accepted that I am no longer a member of the Christian faith.

Come All Ye Faithful?   

So this is Christmas; what does it offer me now? I string the lights, hang an angel on the front porch, humming Silent Night and Oh Bethlehem, and ask, “Why am I participating in this holy-day?” Is it an act of political correctness? Is it family tradition? Is it cultural pressure? Is it the only religious celebration I’ve got? Am I performing a sacrilegious act having the nativity scene under my Christmas tree? Should I even have a tree? Am I being authentic to my self and honoring my personal faith? And why do I suspect if I were to take away all the decoration and cancel our annual Christmas party our neighbors would be more upset by my “Bah Hum Bug” attitude rather than my lack of religious conviction? Is it worse to carry out these traditions without conscious consideration, much less conviction, for the beliefs behind them or to carry on with them, year after year, knowing you feel no connection to the Holy Night? How many of us are personally celebrating the “reason for the season”?     

If Not Salvation…

Before the prayer groups converge on my door step to save me from the pits of eternal damnation, let me mention…I possess a deep, unshakable relationship with God. For me, Jesus was a figure I tried to connect to each Sunday morning, but it was God I embraced Sunday night (and every other night of the week). I may be religiously skeptical but I’ve been spiritually sound for a good portion of my life.

Can’t I celebrate the spiritual lessons of Christ beyond salvation? Why throw out the baby with the holy water? Jesus has provided a lighted path to millions--a pretty good reason to hang some lights and cue the choir. Christmas celebrates the power and mystery of spirit. If a deep love, full of promise and hope, can spark in the most unlikely of places and circumstances imagine what it could do in my comfortable life? Christmas celebrates extraordinary faith. If Mary and Joseph could throw everything behind a voice and a vision, trusting that God would carry them through troubles larger than themselves, where would absolute faith take me? Christmas celebrates humanity. Caesar Augustus, the innkeeper, the wise men, the shepherds, Mary and Joseph--do I approach every circumstance and soul as if God has breathed the very life into it?

A Relationship with God    

I understand that the church wants its followers to accept the Bible as a whole, they’re not a “pick the verses you can live with” type of organization.  Unfortunately, for many of us, it’s more of a “what about the verses I can’t live with” situation. Ultimately, our relationship with a higher source is just that--a relationship, not an organization. If our hearts are seriously troubled by parts of the doctrine, do we begin to feel more spiritually confidant outside the chapel? Could this be one of the reasons why only 18 percent of the American population is attending church on a regular basis?

I honor and celebrate the birth of Jesus because I believe in the Devine, because his life is the model of unconditional love and undying faith, because the nativity story emphasizes how the Universe always, always has our back.

As the season of love, hope, joy and peace falls upon us, is it possible for all of us--avid Christian, skeptical Christian, former Christian, even a non-Christian--to find meaning in the birth of Christ? Have you asked yourself WHY you’re stringing lights across your gutters? Do you have a problem with others celebrating Christmas for spiritual reasons other than the birth of Christ? What about those who celebrate the holiday but fine absolutely no spiritual or religious significance in it?               

Comments

Hillary's picture

gratitude

When I read the title I had to read this post. Although our stories are different I've experienced a similar journey.

I've come to identify myself as a cultural Christian. It was how I was raised and it's how my very large family, and home-based community gathers and celebrates. When it came down to it I didn't want to not do Christmas, because for me Christmas was never really about Christ's birth and it was more about family, gratitude and tradition.

I don't have a problem with this because Christians borrowed this holiday to begin with. There is no documentation or knowledge of when Jesus' birthday was and instead Christian leaders matched up their holy-days with the pagan holy-days already celebrated in order to covert pagans. They knew pagans weren't going to stop celebrating their holidays so they conveniently overlapped their own so people could celebrate and the church could say--oh they're celebrating Christmas, not Solstice and All Saint's Day, not Samhein (Halloween).

Christmas and Easter are actually pagan holy days borrowed to suit the Church's wish to control the population's religious beliefs.

So I celebrate both Solstice to honor the rhythms of living life on Earth and Christmas as a cultural celebration.

Monica Wilcox's picture

The Why

I'm so glad you took the time to read the piece, Hillary and then shared this little discussed fact. I was well into my 30's before I learned that many of the Christian holidays were "borrowed" from the pagans. I believe it was the Discovery Channel that enlightened me. :)

For me, it doesn't matter if the pagan's originally claimed the day, or that it is now officially Christ's, what matters is that each of us is fully conscious as to WHY we are stringing lights down our gutters. Don't you feel knowing why you are, or not, celebrating makes all the difference in the holy-day. An act without meaning is just that; an act. For you Christmas is about appreciating what you have and those you love; not a bad way to spend one day out of the year.

Thanks again for sharing what Christmas has become for you!! May those you love be with you in the next few weeks. Much Love!

Hillary's picture

Yes, and it took me a little

Yes, and it took me a little bit to figure out how I felt about the holidays. It stopped putting my own intentions into Christmas for a few years until I had kids and had a real longing to share and celebrate with them.

And I agree, I don't care who borrowed it form whom, it's more of an answer for the many Christians I know who get upset at the thought of someone celebrating Christmas culturally and not religiously.

Thanks for the discussion!

Monica Wilcox's picture

Soul Shine-Love That

You are so very welcome. As is always the case,turns out I'm not the only soul who is struggling to find new and personal meaning in the Christian traditions we have inherited. Sometimes I feel those of us who have found an almost innate path to God struggle some with Jesus. It's not that we don't respect his life, but we don't necessarily need him to have that connection to the Divine.

I am very much at peace with God and His light within me (so glad you think so too!) and from one spiritual sister to another; may your holiday be filled with joy and memorable moments with your loved ones.

Thank you for all your support, Dana

jessica 's picture

Lovely piece, thanks for

Lovely piece, thanks for sharing. I want to point out that the Bible was cobbled together from pieces that the dominating christian sect felt best supported what they wanted and believed. I've been doing some studying and it verily looks as if Jesus was a part of a group that was very pro-woman. Even more reason to love the dude.

Like you, I doubt wether anyone in my town who considers themselves Christian would see me as the same. For many reasons that you write of. But I celebrate Christmas for the same reasons as Scrooges nephew
"But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas-time, when it has come round-apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that-as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys."

Sheena LaShay's picture

I walked away from

I walked away from Christianity years ago for many reasons. Due to my personal taste I was never really into the holidays whether it was Christmas, Easter or any other. My favorite memories didn't involve the gifts or a church service but actually volunteering or just being with my family.

I suppose I could see what you mean in regards to still honoring Jesus whether you consider him a great teacher or the ONLY way to God. Whatever floats your boat. I find that I don't take the time to celebrate other people in that way and therefore I'm not inclined to celebrate Jesus either.

I have found joy in celebrating the winter solistice. I love rituals, nature and etc and therefore I lean more towards finding wonderful traditions there versus finding meaning in Jesus's birth. There is meaning in everyone's birth so he's just another person to me.

Monica Wilcox's picture

Winter Solstice

Interesting Sheena that you mentioned celebrating winter solstice. Some of the OP bloggers are tossing around the idea of writing about their spiritual connection to the natural rhythms. Keep an eye out in the next few weeks- I've been encouraging them to chime in with their knowledge and wisdom!! I'm VERY interested in learning more about this. May the season have deep meaning for you!! Much love.

Anastacia's picture

He's an amazing teacher--so I celebrate his birth

Lovely, lovely post, Monica! I nodded all the way through.

I made my step away from Christianity in eighth grade--having spent a year learning the religions of the world in prep school. Three things bothered my young mind:

1. How the Christian denominations could all agree on "the way" but the details of daily life and "sin" were up for interpretation. I mean, how does one choose? If eternal salvation rests, even a bit, in that decision, how was I to make it? And what if I was wrong?
2. How accepting Jesus as one's Lord and Savior could be the golden ticket, erasing all the bad...but someone (a Jewish family friend) who had never done a bad thing in his life, gave generously of his time and money to those less fortunate, and who loved God (as he knew him to be) was doomed.
3. I couldn't believe that God actually wanted so much angst for me.

So I struggled and ultimately decided that *I* thought God would want these things from me:

1. That I be the best me I could be
2. That I do no purposeful harm to anyone or anything
3. That I love deeply

Simplistic, perhaps, but it was a HUGE thing for me at that age, and has actually served me well ever since. Over time, I've developed a deeply person relationship with God--a God who is bigger than any one religion. At this point in my life, I'm beyond delighted to know that I don't need an intermediary to "get" to him. All I have to do is start a conversation.

Now, I see Jesus as just one of a bevy of amazing teachers the world has known.

And I see Christmas with at least two sets of eyes. It's the day set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus. So I do that--deeply, inwardly, and gratefully, as I celebrate the days that other fine teachers were born.

But then I celebrate the secular version of Christmas that the holiday has become--complete with beautiful lights, music, trees, ornaments, gifts, time with family and friends, and all the things that "make the season bright."

My wish is that everyone be at peace with Christmas--however it's celebrated.

Thanks, again, for the post and the conversation! ♥

Monica Wilcox's picture

Simplistic can be Profound

I LOVE Anastacia how you have given this subject deep thought, considered what feels right for your soul, what does not and drawn clear, concise spiritual guidelines to guide you through a meaningful, connected life. Bravo!! If you consider the world's religions, their overall message is not much different than your three. Love; if we were all to act in love, every day, to every one-can you imagine the change? Stay true to your spirit girl, and thank YOU for contributing to the conversation!!

Leayn Tabili's picture

I've been trying to reconcile

I've been trying to reconcile this for years. I didn't celebrate Christmas for a while, but that didn't feel right either. I used to get irritated with the Jesus is the reason for the seasons signs. I still get annoyed with the commercialism of the holiday.

However, the music, the decorations, the general SPIRIT I get into when I let myself celebrate wipes all of that away. I celebrate Christmas for what it is. Hope.

It doesn't really matter what you call it, does it? Celebrating peace and love to bring you through the dark days with hope that the light will return. Surrounding yourself with the spirit of the season can only be good. No guilt necessary.

Monica Wilcox's picture

Same Issue

I had the same questions Leayn. Should I stop the decorating, the baking, the whole rigamarole? The idea seemed VERY odd to me. I still embrace the spirit of the season and the lessons found within it. I embrace the kindness that seeps out and fills the very air. Everyone is kinder and more thoughtful during this time of year; the world is a better place in December. Why would I want to separate myself from that?

Keep celebrating love girl!! Many, many blessings!

Fred Krazeise's picture

Beautiful

What a beautifully written article. As I read this, I kept saying to myself, "yes, that's exactly how I feel." Thank you so much for sharing this. I'm sure there are many other people out there who harbor similar feelings as you (and I!) do, but they cannot quite find the right words to express themselves. Thank you for doing so beautifully and eloquently.

Peace,
Fred


jill campana's picture

Hallelujah and Praise Your

Hallelujah and Praise Your Beingness. I am a Christian only in the sense that I do carry the Christ spirit within. I am a spiritual being incarnated into a physical body that was designed to give express the love, the life and the truth of what that Christ spirit means. Human beings have strayed so far from that purpose and have deeply buried the meaning of true Christianity.

I am one with, not separate from, the Creator. What I think, say and do creates my world and thus has a vibrational impact on THE world. The world reflects our consciousness. That probably looks pretty scary to some I'm sure (particularly the Christians no doubt).

I have a choice. And my choice is to love my body and love my life.

Thank you so much for being the voice of many.

Jennifer Shelton's picture

keep shining that light, Monica

You know you are right where you are supposed to be, questions and all. Not everyone will agree with you but agreement isn't the point. You walk your path, shine your light, and you'll transform others in ways you may never even know!

Blessings,

Jennifer
Astrologer, Educator &
Founder of FemCentral, the Virtual Institute for Women 


Monica Wilcox's picture

So Appreciative

Thanks Jennifer!! As always, I'm MIGHTY thankful for your support and encouragement. I feeling pretty blessed to have added so many incredible women to my life in the last 6 months. May your season be full of great love and promise! Sending big hugs and kisses.

Dana Theus's picture

Halelluia!

Monica

Beautifully said. I wasn't really raised as a churchgoer but my family was from Christian fundamentalist roots and while they struggled with these very questions, I was left to come to terms w our dominant religious culture's meaning on my own in adulthood. Like you, I have always felt a deep (and ever growing connection) to God. Holding to that I've come to almost exactly where you are w respect to Christ. a man whose life I admire and view as both heroic and symbolic.

My husband's experience is more like yours and we celebrate Christmas and the spirit of giving happily with our children every year. I firmly believe that in celebrating the light, love and good in the world, we reinforce it; and so Christmas is a wonderful way to contribute to everything from my famiy's well being to world peace,

It seems to me as though you are at peace with your role in channeling the love and light too. Ihank you for contributing you soul shine to my holiday season.

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