Christmas Time Reflections

Future Hope column, Dec. 21, 2008

By Ted Glick

“I am firmly convinced that the passionate will for justice and truth has done more to improve (the human condition) than calculating political shrewdness which in the long run only breeds general mistrust.”
Albert Einstein, “Moral Decay,” 1937

I always like it when the Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/New Year’s season comes around. I like the time I get to spend with my larger family. I like the time off from work. I like (many of) the Christmas songs. I like it when it snows, as it’s doing as I write.

I especially like that, during this season, and despite all the commercialism, there’s a much stronger undercurrent in open support of peace, justice and concern for “the least of these.” Some of the popular Christmas songs, for example, are very inspiring.

My favorite is Stevie Wonder’s “Some Day at Christmas.” Check out these lines:

Someday at Christmas men won’t be boys
Playing with bombs like kids play with toys
One warm December all hearts will see
A world where men are free

Someday at Christmas we’ll see a land
No hungry children, no empty hand
One happy morning people will share
A world where people care

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

But what I like the most about this season is that it’s the time of year when more people than usual remember one of the greatest human beings, one of the greatest revolutionaries, ever to walk the earth: Jesus of Nazareth.

I say this not because I believe in all aspects of Christian theology, particularly the belief that Jesus’ physical body rose from the dead, because I don’t. I don’t believe that Jesus was sent to earth by a god up in heaven as a conscious act on this god’s part to help us.

What I do believe is that Jesus of Nazareth was a man who was way ahead of his time, ahead of the times we are living in today, in his appreciation for the kind of lives we need to be living if we are to find the best within us, if we are to learn the fullest and deepest meaning of love, if we as a people are to find the Great Harmony among ourselves and with our mother, the earth.
Jesus was a great teacher, by all historical reports. One of my favorite stories is this account of his telling his disciples about God separating people at the metaphorical day of judgment. The gospel of Matthew, Chapter 25, tells it this way:

“Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’”

I can’t count the number of times this story has come to me as I have been asked by a person in need on the street for some change. Many of those times I have stopped to give them some and, usually, offer a kind word, and I know that the lessons about Jesus that I learned as a child, and the parents I had who walked their Christian talk, have a lot to do with my having done so.

Jesus was willing to stand up in opposition to repressive cultural norms. He included as one of his inner team not just a woman in a very patriarchal, male-dominated society, but a woman who was a former prostitute. He spent time with lepers, tax collectors and other social outcasts. It’s impossible to see Jesus taking the homophobic positions that sometimes-more-progressive, Christian evangelical minister Rick Warren has taken.

Jesus was more than a teacher, he was also a healer. He took the time to work with individual people to address their physical or emotional problems. He understood that it is hypocritical in the extreme for people to profess their commitment to a higher power but do little or nothing to give concrete assistance to those who are suffering.

Jesus was a man of action. He was a traveling organizer who I am sure went hungry on many occasions because of the life he chose to live. And, though intelligent and shrewd, he was willing to take risks, to confront the dominant powers-that-be in his society, as he did when he led a group into the temple in Jerusalem and overturned the tables of the money changers.

Jesus was willing to die in pursuit of his beliefs, at the same time that he loved life and enjoyed being with friends and loved ones. He had no illusions about the wickedness and evil which was so dominant within his Palestinian world and which is still so strong worldwide over 2,000 years later. Although plagued by doubts, as indicated by the words he spoke while being crucified—“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”—he refused to turn back from doing what he knew was right. He did what he could to prepare his followers for this death while likely having no real knowledge of what would come after it.

Jesus of Nazareth was a human being to draw strength and insight from in today’s world.

Ted Glick has been a progressive organizer and activist for over 40 years. For more information go to`