Growing up in an African Methodist Episcopal household as a child (A.M.E. shout out to Richard Allen!), the annual Christmas program was a huge deal. From the flowing red gowns of the female choir members to the gold candles illuminating the sanctuary in a warm glow, the soaring notes of "O Holy Night," and "Silent Night' were congregant favorites. Everyone would sway and sing along, celebrating the birth of their one, true savior, Jesus -- or Joshua for those people who like to be historically correct.
There's only one small problem:
Dec. 25 is not his birthday. Biblical scholars have debunked the blind belief that Jesus was born on Dec. 25 time and time again. Instead, through scientific, historical and astrological calculations, they've pinpointed September of the year 3 B.C. as a more accurate date. But for some reason, as is the case with Easter, creationism and the entire Old Testament, many Christians have wrestled the concept from its origins, even going so far as declaring that people are heathens, ungrateful and unscrupulous for daring to take the "Christ" out of X-mas.
I guess I would feel more comfortable with the scathing criticism, if in fact, Christmas was ever intended to be a Christian holiday, but it was not. That is not myth, legend or subjective opinion -- that is fact.
Many people are familiar with the Winter Solstice, and for those who are not, it's when the sun reaches it's lowest point in the sky on Dec. 21, actually appearing to stop moving for three days, then rising again on Dec. 25. With just a cursory examination, one can understand that the "Birth of the Son" is actually the "Return of the Sun." And those three wise men? The three stars of Orion's Belt have always been referred to as "The Three Kings," and astronomy tells us that they appear to follow the bright star, Sirius, who over the years has evolved into Mary, the Virgin Mother.
Besides the fact that the day in question is relevant to a long list of deities throughout antiquity who pre-date Jesus, from Persia's pagan Sun God Mithra to Egypt's Horus and Ra, to Syria's Baal, Rome's Sol Invictus and Greece's Helios, it wasn't until the year 350 A.D., that Pope Julius I declared that the "Christ-Mass" would be held on Dec. 25, to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
There are many Christians who frown upon this conversation, and that's fine. But I think the fact that Dec. 25 is no more the birth of Jesus Christ, than a day an obese white man from the North Pole slides down the chimney -- the last I heard, that's called breaking and entering -- to give children presents should be examined. The culmination of the Winter Solstice, when farmers rejoiced in the re-appearance of the sun, when the darkness lifted and warmth began to fill people's lives again is just as worthy of celebration as a supermarket Santa or the fictitious birthday of Jesus -- even more so in my opinion, because it's real.
We all need the sun, we all depend on it to live healthy lives, it is the solar force that enables plants to bloom and trees to grow. And while I don't believe that it should be worshiped, I see absolutely nothing wrong with acknowledging it's power and being grateful for its presence without being bombarded with questions regarding faith -- as many of us agnostics are -- or being judged for not accepting the myth that has taken on a life of its own.
Can the church say, "Amen"?
Whether strong faith, or none, those who are so blessed, should all be grateful for our families, friends and good health; we should continue to reach out into our communities and care for those who may be lacking all three and most of all, we should not let something so simple as one day cause unnecessary divisiveness when it should be a time of joy for all.
So Happy Winter Solstice everyone -- may your days be filled with the warmth, peace and growth of a million suns!
And for those who just can't force themselves to re-think the real reason for the season -- Merry Christmas. We'll save the discussion on the holiday's franchise player, Santa Claus -- and his impersonation of Babylon's Nimrod -- for next year.