I’m from a conservative Christian background. First Baptist was my church, and at it I learned some things I wear on me today, and other things that I have discarded.
In 2004-2005 I took a class on Islam. I was hungry for knowledge in a time of war. What I learned opened my eyes to ideas that maybe some of you have known for decades, but to me it was secret, and new, knowledge.
That holiday season, I began to see ginger and other spices as relics of the meeting of cultures. The three wise men – who were probably Zoroastrian – following a star in the night with hope, and with love to welcome a new one into the world.
It was a celestial convergence.
I have saved a Christmas hymnal I found at a thrift store and bring it out every year. The front cover has Mary and Joseph and Jesus, all in stained glass. Angular. Nothing particularly revolutionary, but pretty in its own way.
The back cover pictures the three wise men – one from an Arab country, one who looks like he could be from North Africa, and another of an unspecified heritage. Maybe he looks like Jesus might have looked. This I turn up on the coffee table and look at for a reminder of who we really are. Souls from different faiths with the capacity to come together when we recognize the sacredness of a moment.
The more I look at Christmas, the more I see its universal ideas: heaven “coming down,” the east – which was not so far away in Jesus’ time – meeting the west, and something holy being borne into this world. Indeed, everyday.
Another thing I think about is safe harbor. Harboring strangers who carry something holy with them. The innkeeper didn’t know this, neither did the shepard (?) – I’m a little fuzzy on the details – who let them stay in a manger. Today we have strangers coming to us with the same holy spirit that might be in all of us, and from a region many of us imagine during Christmas. Please, let us recognize the sacredness of this moment.