“We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why they are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus.”
-Jackson Browne, The Rebel Jesus
“Almost two thousands years ago on the shores of Lake Galilee a gentle and compassionate young Jew called Jesus denounced the ruling classes of his time—not just the rich and powerful but even the religious authorities—for exploiting and oppressing the people of Palestine. He preached universal love and taught that the meek, humble and weak would some day inherit the earth. Beyond this, in both his words and actions he often rejected the subservient and separate position that his culture assigned women. Freely associating with women, which was itself a form of heresy in his time, Jesus proclaimed the spiritual equality of all.”
-Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade
The holiday season is about more than the official celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth on December 25th. There’s Hanakkuh, Kwanzaa, the New Year and, for Latin cultures, Three Kings Day. But for many people in majority-Christian United States, there’s a special importance to December 25th and all that goes on around it.
As one of those many people raised in the Christian church, this is definitely true for me. Even though my visits to church on Sunday are rare these days, I consider Jesus one of the people from whom I draw strength and insights for how to live my life day by day. I get it when he said that the greatest commandments are to “Love God [Universal Love, Truth, Justice] with all your heart, mind and soul, and do unto your neighbor as you would have done unto yourself.”
Jesus was not unique as far as this message. In the small book, “Oneness: Great Principles Shared by All Religions,” by Jeffrey Moses, he lists similar quotes from other religions:
Judaism: What is hurtful to yourself do not do to your fellow man.
Islam: Do until all men as you would wish to have done unto you.
Buddhism: Hurt not others with that which pains yourself.
Confucianism: What you do not yourself desire, do not put before others.
Hinduism: Treat others as thou wouldst thyself be treated.
These are the kinds of things I think about more frequently during this holiday season. I am aided in doing so when I hear a number of the old hymns and the modern songs which have positive social and political messages, like John Lennon’s Happy Christmas (War is Over) or My Grown Up Christmas List with the chorus, “No more lives torn apart, That wars would never start, And time would heal all hearts, And everyone would have a friend, And right would always win, And love would never end, This is my grown up Christmas list.”
And then there is Stevie Wonder’s moving Someday at Christmas: “Someday at Christmas man will not fail, Hate will be gone and love will prevail, Someday a new world that we can start, With hope in every heart. Someday all our dreams will come to be, Someday in a world where men are free, Maybe not in time for you and me, But someday at Christmastime, Someday at Christmastime.”
Holidays are a time for rest, reflection, time with family and friends and renewal and regeneration of our spirits. The fact that this end of the year holiday season goes on for a week or, for some people, 12 days, amplifies its importance to our and many other cultures. As this time approaches, those of us who understand the importance of activism and organizing to change the world, no matter our religious beliefs or lack of them, should welcome and look to underline and deepen the positive social messages all around us.
Ted Glick has been a progressive activist, organizer and writer since 1968. Past writings and other information can be found at http://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.