Christmas has different meanings for different people. For Christians, it celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God. Some followers of Judiasm may participate in Christmas, but not in the religious sense — Christmas is not a Jewish holiday. Followers of Islam, the third Abrahamic religion, believe Jesus to be a messiah, and may participate in Christmas, but not as a doctrinal celebration.
Even people without a Christian connection participate in the yuletide festivities and gift-giving, for Christmas long ago became a secular holiday for some.
Regardless of one’s religion or beliefs, Christmas is an opportune time to reflect on Jesus the historical figure, his life, and his countercultural teachings that seem so juxtaposed with our culture.
Jesus eschewed the me-first mentality so pervasive in today’s society. He advocated servant leadership — true leaders don’t assert authority or dominance. Instead, those who want to be great humble themselves and serve others.
Jesus was a man of grace, mercy, and forgiveness. He refused to condemn the adulterer. He touched and healed the affected, outcast leper. Jesus cared deeply for children. And Jesus’ last living act was forgiving a condemned criminal hanging on the cross to his right.
Jesus said it was difficult to be rich and enter the kingdom of God. Instead, he advocated giving wealth away.
Lastly, in a world of strife and war, where arguments large and small dominate, and where fighting is commonplace, Jesus advocated peace and nonretaliation. He asked his disciples to turn the other cheek, keep their swords sheathed, and love their enemies.
On the observed birthday of the central figure of Christianity, it is important to be reminded what Jesus stood for — and to see how far our culture has strayed from it. No matter one’s religion or belief, teachings are a remarkable Christmas gift to all of us.