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Jesus, Christmas, Nativity Scenes, and The Polar Express

By Xmarkm @matthews_mark
Merry Christmas! Christian or not, may salvation be part of your lexicon.
Unless, of course, you are a devout nihilist, then may you find unmeaning and a slow self-destruction to your heart's content.
I've been both Christian and Nihilist, sometimes in the same day. Praying for salvation, pondering over amazing grace, or deciding that the only noble thing for the human race to do is stop reproducing and walk hand in hand to extinction. Perhaps this is evident of a weakness of faith as it is ever-wavering, but I prefer it over blindly following the religion of my parents.
I was raised Catholic, took my first holy communion, went to confession. I took a class called The Bible as Literature at University of Michigan with world-renowned lecturer Ralph Williams which blew my freaking mind. I harrowed Hell in my addiction, found redemptive suffering, was filled with the glory of heaven and gratitude so many times in my life.  I've identified with the christian allegory, attended church (infrequently) at Renaissance Unity listening to Marianne Williamson speak. I started to identify as a 'metaphysical Christian,'  meaning I subscribe more to the metaphysics of the crucifixion rather than a literal interpretation.  That the concept of all our souls experience of harrowing hell, redemptive suffering, and ascending to heavens to our father (and mother) who love us like none other and had to sacrifice us, temporary.... well, that rings true for me, and I have faith it wasn't just made up. Like the stories that demonstrate the larger truths, which were made up.
At times, I have little belief, and figure death is the end, but take comfort that the lack of consciousness when we die and everything ceases is a sort of heaven. Other times, I subscribe to what I know of Buddhism. or Kabalah. But Christianity is perhaps the most constant of these, even if Ive wanted to go Piscene from the book "The Life of Pi" and follow a multitude of religions, even if they contradict each other.

"All spiritual facts I realize are true"  ~Allen Ginsberg

Perhaps this is why I like the concept of the 12 steps of AA. The only words underlined in all the steps are God as we understood him. If your understanding changes, then the steps evolve alongside of you.

For some reason this year, my attention has been especially drawn to nativity scenes. I grew up with a nativity scene all my life, and used to play with the three wise men, and stare at the faces of all who surrounded baby Jesus. I made backstories in my brain, and all of those visiting Jesus were immensely kind. I told my kids the other day that the three wise men come alive at night and surround my bed, watching over me, same way they do Jesus in the nativity scene.

My daughter became particularly mad when I filled baby Jesus's place on the manger first with a C3PO doll, then a little block head boston marathon character. Not because she was offended, more because she didn't think of it herself. 

Jesus, Christmas, Nativity Scenes, and The Polar Express
I just found out this year that some folks don't put the baby Jesus in the manger until Christmas day (for he wasn't born yet, duh!). I never realized this. So, now when I see a nativity scene, I try to see if they include the little fellow or not. 

Doesn't life start at immaculate conception? For me, what the scene represents is what matters. The metaphysics of Jesus was there all along, not just the body of the baby which was born. And, as grandiose as it is, I got to believe there is something to the point that we all have more Jesus in us than we realize, that when we were born, we were surrounded by immense kindness and are capable of Jesus-like miracles. Also, like Jesus, this world will crucify us. We are bearing a cross right now, and soon will be nailed to it. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

The musical The Book of Mormon is a great illustration of the dangers of literal interpretations of religious texts. So are all the people who have died because of religious wars (religion is dangerous to the worlds' health).  December 25th just happens to be the same date of celebration for God's throughout all of history.

 One thing about Christmas is, rarely is something that happens on December 25th the defining moment for me. Last night, the family and I watched Polar Express. My girls were riveted, we oohed and ashhhed, and were perfectly quiet during that tremendous moment.  "The First Gift of Christmas".  After the movie and the kids off to bed, I said to my wife "I'm good. That was my Christmas moment. It can be over now."

Jesus, Christmas, Nativity Scenes, and The Polar Express

(Christ was a bit of a vagabond Hobo in his time, right? Well, the dude on top of the polar express train, was he Holy Ghost or Hobo? He provided spiritual lessons on faith, and saved lives in times of need. Put that man in a manger)

I've received as much spiritual revelations from running through a church parking lot on a snowy winter Sunday than I have inside. Chances are, those inside were feeling what I felt, a connection to life, to other humans, and a feeling of the amazing grace of the human experience. 
Whoever is lying on that manger, doesn't matter, important thing is that the manger exists, that immense kindness exists, and something is born to give meaning and hope to your life. Christian or not, Merry Salvation of your Spirit.
Jesus, Christmas, Nativity Scenes, and The Polar Express


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