It goes without saying that, for an atheist like me, Christmas is not a time for religious expression – but neither is it a time that I would try to deny that expression to others – even in the public square. On the other hand, the meaning of Christmas is nothing but secular to me.
For me these days, the Christmas season is mostly about memories: of the familiarity and love of family and friends from when I was a young boy; memories of my wife, daughter, and I getting to know each other, and becoming a new family around our first few Christmas trees when I was a young man; of spending time with friends that I consider family today, and appreciating and loving my daughter for the wonderful woman she’s become.
Then there is the kindness and felicity of others to appreciate at his time of year, when so many set aside their differences and share good cheer and fellowship. While it’s not possible for a reasonable man to believe that Christmas will foster “peace on Earth, good will toward men”, it is certainly a pleasure to see simple acts of kindness being carried out around me; a solicitous type of behavior, even among strangers, that does not seem able to survive the daily grind during the rest of the year.
For all of these things and more I’m grateful, and it’s all because of the season, and what we were taught about it as children. Not having grown up in a religious family, the meaning of Christmas was about loving those closest to us, as well as a gentleness of spirit that we might share with those who were not so close.
For me, at this time of year, I sense within myself a fellowship with all rational beings; a sense of hope that it is possible for reason to prevail and that humanity can live in peace; that, despite our differences, we might someday overcome the largely irrational belief systems that separate us to find a way to share this world, and this life, in harmony.
This does not require belief in anything “greater” than me – or you.
While I do not expect to see this transformation in my lifetime, and while such thoughts may not be the most rational a man can have, it is each year at Christmas that I see the greatest possibility for these things to become reality. So, this Christmas season, I ask that you be hopeful and helpful; be kind and compassionate; be the type of caring and loving person you wish others would be and, just perhaps, we can make this world a better place to be.
Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Life…