THE REV. BOB HILL, pastor emeritus, Community Christian Church: To celebrate Christmas in a land other than one’s own is extraordinarily hard to fathom, given the powerful attachments of sentiment, custom, family, friends and beautifully particular, home-specific rituals.
But worse still would be not trying to imagine the Yuletide gifts and graces of other locales. Christmas always holds more wondrous blessings than any one place can contain.
Mexico would certainly be one of the places where my soul could find spiritual nourishment at Christmastime. The tradition of “Las Posadas,” a nine-day festival portraying the Holy Family seeking shelter and being turned away in one place after another, shows God’s indefatigable spirit, which will be undeterred until humanity finally receives the divine gift of incarnational love.
England also attracts my fancy, since its genius musicians originated some of the most beloved Christmas compositions. Charles Wesley and Handel, alone, distinguish Britain as a Christmas music epicenter.
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Italy pulls equally strongly on my Christmas heartstrings because of St. Francis’ holy audacity in creating what is understood to have been the first “Living Nativity” scene.
But perhaps it is Egypt that has a special allure for me and possibly many others this Christmas. For it was in Egypt, according to the gospel of Matthew, that Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, refugees all, experienced safe harbor in a brutish and brutalizing world.
Two millennia later, could Christians, especially those of us in the U.S., learn key, saving lessons about the Christmas spirit and the essence of holy hospitality from our ancient, non-Christian, Egyptian exemplars?
THE REV. DUKE TUFTY, Unity Temple on the Plaza: Christmas is a time to celebrate not only the birth of Jesus but also the spiritual consciousness that served as the foundation of his message.
Jesus often is called the Prince of Peace because peace must come first before each of us individually or the world as a whole can fully experience the great rewards of life such as love, joy, harmony and a sense of well-being.
We can manage any difficult or disturbing situation without suffering if we can maintain peace of mind. Peace must be a priority in our lives.
That being the case, if I were to choose another country in which to celebrate Christmas, I would choose Iceland. In addition to Iceland having a North Pole/Santa Claus feel, it also is the most peaceful country in the world. Violent crime is nonexistent.
Even though 1 out of 4 Icelanders owns a gun, when a crime occurs it usually does not involve a firearm. The police are unarmed, and in 2009 Iceland had only one homicide. Even with a much greater U.S. population, the 15,241 homicides reported in 2009 by the FBI is staggering.
There is virtually no difference among upper, middle and lower Icelandic classes. Tension between economic groups is nonexistent, and equality is the biggest reason for the nation’s relative lack of crime.
Let us spend this holiday season with a peaceful mind, being at peace with all the situations and circumstances in our world; with a peaceful heart, being at peace with all the people in our world; and a peaceful spirit, being at peace with the person each of us is and the existence we are living.
Peace on Earth, good will to all.
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