You're standing in a long line of impatient shoppers, listening to "Winter Wonderland" for the 15th time that day and holding a credit card that should have been locked away a dozen charges ago. Who would blame you for wondering: What's the point? Why celebrate Christmas anyway? It's not as though Dec. 25 is really the birthday of Jesus. It's just another day.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
And if you're feeling particularly grouchy, you might wonder why we celebrate religious festivals at all. Why Hanukkah? Why Easter? Why Eid al-Fitr?
Well, part of the reason, of course, is that everyone loves a party. Everyone loves a feast. Holidays break up the year, giving workers a reason to rest and families an excuse to gather.
But these festivals feed our souls, not just our bodies. They remind us of the great mysteries of faith -- and more, they invite us to relive them, to enter the story, to make it real in us.
In Hanukkah, which was celebrated earlier this month, observant Jews do not merely remember the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days. They light candles on the menorah and experience the illumination themselves.
There's something about engaging the story with our own flesh -- whether it's lighting the menorah or taking part in a Nativity pageant -- that makes spiritual truth come alive.
(By the way, Hanukkah is not the most significant Jewish holiday. It has been blown up in importance in this country by its proximity to Christmas. As the Judaism 101 site says, "It is bitterly ironic that this holiday, which has its roots in a revolution against assimilation and the suppression of Jewish religion, has become the most assimilated, secular holiday on our calendar." Christians who decry the secularization of Christmas sympathize.)
Do religious rituals or festivals help you to enter the mystery of your faith?
Posted by Jane Pope at 9:33 AM