We’re all in this vale of tears and joy together
By earl Fischer December 25, 2012 9:14PM
Updated: January 27, 2013 6:10AM
The “12 days of Christmas” have just begun. They run from Christmas to the Epiphany, Jan. 6, celebrating the first time Jesus was presented to the world at large — represented by the “three wise men” from the East.
Today marks the first day of Kwanzaa, a weeklong celebration of traditional African values. It concludes on New Year’s Day with individual and group reflection on self-identity and purpose.
Just before Christmas Eve on the feast day Gita Jayanti, Dec. 23 — Hindus honored the birth of the Bhagavad Gita, their religion’s most revered scripture.
On Dec. 8, Catholics celebrated the Immaculate Conception of Christ’s mother. Jews began eight nights of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. And Buddhists observed Rohatsu, to celebrate Buddha’s enlightenment.
The winter solstice, Dec. 21, was the Wiccan main day to celebrate.
Nov. 24 this year was the Islamic holy day of Ashura, commemorating the times Noah left the ark, Moses was saved from the Egyptians, and Muhammad’s grandson Hussein was martyred.
The holiday spirit has been with us (if you count gift shopping and decorating) since before Thanksgiving. It was dampened, not broken, by the Newtown massacre. This darkest time of year in the Northern Hemisphere is the season that we all like to offset, somehow, by joining in celebration of peace and love — brotherhood and sisterhood. Let’s not end it. Let’s build on it.
After what happened Dec. 14, during Advent, some people didn’t want to celebrate Christmas; some immediately took down their decorations. But a minister at one of the prayer vigils urged greater coming together and celebrating than ever. “That’s what faith is all about,” he said later, explaining that it’s not worth much if it’s there only in good times.
Advent is a penitential time of awaiting, but there’s joy in that anticipation of Christ’s coming. There also should be a sense of oneness with others in that sometimes hard, but joyous wait.
Our faith tells us that Jesus came to save everyone. That’s why all 12 days of Christmas, when they finally arrive, are so joyful and generally unifying. Yet, some Christians resent the insertion of Kwanzaa into the period. Many make a fuss about the type of greeting used. Others argue about whether to call a fir (“O Tannenbaum”) a Christmas or holiday tree.
Come on, folks. Historians say Dec. 25 originally was a pagan holiday — a time quite naturally selected (for more reasons than one) to take advantage of the holiday spirit and celebrate the birth of Christ. We’re all in this vale of tears and joy together.
The seven core principles of Kwanzaa are basically the same values taught and modeled by Jesus. Christians could say he embodies enlightenment. Most of us, whatever or no religion, eventually learn that life is about love — all it entails, including respect for different beliefs and ways.
“Breaking down the mysteries between us: Seeking peace through understanding” is the theme of a New Year’s Day event that may interest you. It is the Eighth Annual World Peace Day Inter-Faith Prayer Service, cosponsored by the Joliet Diocese Office for Human Dignity and 14 other organizations, ranging from Christian to Jewish, to Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu and Unitarian Universalist. The service will be held in Wentz Concert Hall, Naperville, at 2 p.m. on Jan. 1.
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