I love Jesus of Nazareth.
I grew up in the church, a Presbyterian church. I sang in the choir, joined the youth group, attended the special classes for confirmation and was proudly confirmed. I remember our minister, Reverend Crawford. Mostly I remember the kindness and acceptance. Our church had one rule, the Golden Rule. The Christianity that I was taught was the humility, generosity, and tolerance that Jesus showed us every day of his life regardless of hardships.
When our family moved to another town I found horses, and in typical teenage fashion I traded church for teenage activities. But I continued to be inspired by the life of Jesus, and continued to celebrate his birth and his death. While in college I once attended another Presbyterian church in Philadelphia. The minister spent his entire sermon condemning us for the sins we had surely committed, never encouraging us to go forward in kindness and generosity and peace. It was unfamiliar and unwelcome. I did not return.
As I grew older I recognized that I don’t believe much of the Bible, or any other religious text. I am an atheist. This hardly precludes my love of Jesus, the humble carpenter who put love first. I believe in Jesus as an example of the wondrous potential in each of us. The man with the courage to speak the truth in the face of hypocrisy, to embrace the weak and the poor who could do nothing for him in return, to live his love despite the consequences. Unencumbered by various passages in the Old Testament, uncensored by organizations that may judge my actions by their own interpretation of faith, I am free to follow the Golden Rule, my conscience, and the example of Christ.
This Christmas season think not so much of the child, but of the man he became, a man who loved and aided his fellow man, no exceptions. Within each of us there is a capacity for kindness and tolerance and love. Open your heart to the world, breathe deeply of the humble love that Jesus showed us.
Merry Christmas Everyone!