Jesus of Nazareth

“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.”
-David Foster and Linda Thompson-Jenner, My Grown Up Christmas List

“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.”
-Someday at Christmas, Stevie Wonder

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth, A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn, Fall on your knees. . . And in His name, all oppression shall cease.”
-Oh Holy Night

There are many people who are not spiritually moved by the Christmas season, people of all religions or none. They may appreciate time with family or friends, be glad they get time off from work to rest, or enjoy the first snow of the winter. They may like some of the Christmas music, especially those songs with messages of love, peace and an end to oppression.

But they hate the commercialism, superficiality and hypocrisy which is widespread within the mass media and elsewhere.

Should the birth, life and death of Jesus of Nazareth have any meaning for these people? I say yes, particularly if they are people who support justice, peace and the critical need to protect the endangered ecosystems of our world.

I’m not a believer in the theology surrounding Jesus. But based on what I learned as a kid taken to church every Sunday by my parents, as well as via critical, agnostic research over the years after I left home, I’ve come to see him as a great teacher, a great spiritual leader and a model for how all human beings should try to live their lives.

More than that, the fact that he lived the life he did, was willing to take action against both the religious and political powers-that-be of his day, and was willing to suffer and die for what he believed in, is a reason to have hope for humankind.

He isn’t the only person in that category; there are many, many more before him and since, including people living today, who gave/give of themselves for a world based on love. Without all of these people, human society would be hell on earth.

It is that for some, in the war-torn Middle East in particular right now, and elsewhere in the world where grinding poverty is many peoples’ daily reality.

To change this world, to transform it into the world that it can be, those of us who are the change agents, the organizers, need to give positive and inspired leadership. People who are oppressed, suffering, victims of injustice or with little hope that things can change are not going to respond well to us otherwise.

Where will be get that inspiration ourselves? Some get it from study of history which shows that, sooner or later, resistance always rises against oppression. Some get it from time spent outside in the natural world, feeling nature’s grandeur and power. Others get it from time spent with children, their own or others. And some get it from spiritual or religious traditions.

We also get it from other adults. I know from experience that if I am not around other people who work with and support me, who contribute their energy and wisdom to the task of figuring out what we need to do to have a political/social impact, I just won’t have the clarity or energy I need.

It’s the same with historic figures whose teachings can help us navigate through each day, no matter its challenges. Their words and experiences speak to us and help us. Their examples do the same.

In this time that is celebrated as the birthday time of Jesus, we can all benefit from reflections on his life, his words, his actions, and his death at the hands of the Roman empire.

Ted Glick has been a progressive activist and organizer since 1968. Past writings can be found at www.tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.