The reason for the season

I am not dogmatic about my religious beliefs, and I have long recognized that what we call Christmas is an amalgam of traditions and practices from several different cultures and belief systems (or religions, if you prefer). The Christian church was quite masterful about co-opting the holidays and rituals of others to create official holidays to, perhaps, allow people of widely varying beliefs to celebrate together under the church’s watchful eye.

Even with this in mind, today’s Bizarro cartoon really struck me as a profound statement about the two central figures in all Christmas lore: Jesus and Santa Claus.

nativity-santa

The juxtaposition of icons, Mary’s choice of wording (“in god’s name”), the impersonal assistant going through the motions, the scowling donkey, Santa’s imploring pose. It really made me think about the symbols we associate with this holiday and how our beliefs create the meaning it holds for us. Do you feel sorry for Santa, who is both unrecognized and rejected? Or do you perceive him as a commercially motivated interloper in this sacred scene? There are no right or wrong answers. Everyone will see something slightly different in this panel.

As for me, the reason for the season is to draw close to those we love and celebrate our connections to and our affections for one another. It is a time of renewal and rebirth, and a time to reflect on where we’ve been as well as where we’re going. It is a time for generosity, for kindness, and for grace. I don’t think it matters who gets the credit for this, Jesus or Santa. What does matter is what we hold in our hearts at Christmas and throughout the year.

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