Promise and Possiblity: A Christmas Story

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by Jan Waterman

“Grampa, what is the meaning of Christmas?”

My dad had just finished reading my son the story of the birth of Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem. I waited to hear how he would answer. An electrical engineer, my dad is extremely intelligent, thoughtful, kind and gentle, though not particularly religious. In fact, I had never heard him say the word “God” in any context.

This is going to be interesting, I thought.

“Oh, I don’t know,” my dad responded after a moment. “Christmas means different things to different people.”

“Like what, Grampa?” my son queried.

“Like decorating a tree, making cookies, shopping and presents and gift-giving, Christmas music and concerts, parties and visits to grandparents,” my dad offered.

“But what does Christmas mean to you, Grampa?”

“Well, let’s see,” my dad answered. “If we’re going to celebrate Christmas every year, I think we should make it a current event, relevant to our lives every day, rather than a tradition that doesn’t mean anything now.”

That’s true, I thought. We live more richly when what we do has clarity and purpose.

“So, hmmm, I’m going to say that the birth of Jesus in a manger symbolizes the birth of holiness in us. We are the manger in which we embrace our own, and each other’s, holiness.”

“What do you mean, Grampa?”

“Well, I mean that how we see ourselves determines how we see others and the world. What is it that we choose to place in our manger? Do we choose goodness and beauty as the qualities fundamental to our character and inherent in our being, or do we see the world as dark and scary? Are we expecting and inviting what is good, or do we look for what we don’t want? Do we focus on our connectedness or do we hold ourselves apart through our judgments? Are we generous and forgiving toward ourselves and others?”

This was quite a long speech for my dad. After a silent pause, he continued:

“I do know this — there is no way that I can decide that other people are inferior or unworthy yet hold myself apart from my own judgments. In other words, who I envision myself to be determines how I see the world, and how I view the world determines my experience of it. I essentially fill my manger with my choice of perception. If I choose holiness, then I am more likely to be open and curious and understanding. My interactions with others will be based on respect and equality. I’ll be less reactive and more responsive, patient, kind and gentle.”

“What does that have to do with a baby, Grampa?” my son wanted to know.

“It’s easy for us to see babies as innocent and perfect. And as I choose to see the innocence and perfection in others, I realize my own.”

“Huh?” my son questioned.

“A baby is full of promise and possibility. Christmas reminds us that we can choose to see everyone as innocent and significant. When we do, we touch into our own and each others’ perfection. We open to inspiration and possibility. We experience love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and faithfulness.”

After a moment, my dad added quietly, as if to himself, “Holiness; wholeness; peace on earth, good will toward all.” Another pause, and then he concluded, “The recognition of holiness changes everything.”

“Okay, Grampa.” My son was ready to move on to some other activity. “But can we celebrate Christmas all the time, then?” he asked as he headed toward the door.

“Yes, we can,” my dad replied. “Yes, we can.”

Jan Waterman is a writer and teacher who is passionate about life and seeks to align perception with the highest perspective. She hopes that what she writes will inspire others to consider new thoughts and ideas about their spiritual selves. <aligningperception@gmail.com>.