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  • Writer's pictureRev. Ani

Christmas as a Celebration of Indebtedness

An Advent Reflection

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“Discipleship teaches us the art of seeing our lives as gifts.” William Willimon

I watched a movie recently that linked the origin of Christmas to the first occasion when a character named Nikolas began distributing toys to awaken hope. While the message of the film is inspirational and I appreciate it, I couldn’t help but be fascinated with the fact that it effectually ignores the birth of Jesus as the inauguration of Christmas, creating a new narrative. And while I fully embrace religious pluralism, interfaith conversation, and interspiritual practices, I wouldn’t endorse making up new explanations for the existence of other holidays, such as Hanukkah and Kwanza.

Christmas has profound significance for me and is predicated on the birth of Jesus. In fact, it is the designated day in which people who embrace Jesus’ core values commemorate his appearance in the world. I enjoy the gift-giving (modest in my family) and holiday accoutrements that have become associated with this celebration, yet I must affirm that Jesus is the reason for the advent of Christmas so that the things added do not become mistaken for the real deal.

My own celebration of Christmas is not dogmatic or doctrinal in any way, but is deeply spiritual. It is connected to the essential poverty with which each one of us enters the world. We would like to think that we are powerful beyond measure — and we do have agency in any situation — yet, everything each one of us receives in life is a gift of mutuality. I am because we are.

My parents provided for me as a child. My mother still strives to do that to this day. And the symbolic nature of Jesus' birth in a stable recollects us to our fundamental vulnerability and interdependence, as well as to the action of grace.

Jesus’ entry in time, and his subsequent message, reminds me that I cannot manage life or create my own esteem and ultimate security. I am dependent on others to mirror my value through their love and forgiveness, require the provision of the earth for my sustenance, and need the community of family and friends for protection. And I cherish the idea of a Power greater than myself demonstrating my inherent worth through the gift of Jesus and his gospel of peace.

I am indebted to others and the Prime Mystery that creates, sustains, and I believe, loves, us all; and others are also indebted to me for my contribution. This and every Christmas, I celebrate Jesus’ timeless message of love of neighbor and self, forgiveness, compassion, and faith in a Power greater than ourselves, and I remember my indebtedness to Jesus for his willingness and courage to address the injustices in corrupt systems and to advocate for mercy and hope. May we all recognize that every breath is a gift, affirm our own basic poverty, show up with the humility of an empty cup, promote the dignity of each being, offer trust and respect, and share the talents that have been bestowed upon us so liberally.

Peace on Earth and goodwill to all.


Dear friend,

May your mind be peaceful and calm, may your body be relaxed and comfortable, and may your heart be filled with love.

Thank you for reading.

Blessings and gratitude, Ani

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