About two weeks ago I along with five of my teammates each adopted a less fortunate family for Christmas. We provided them with gifts, actual Christmas trees, groceries, whatever they needed in order to make their Christmas special. We boarded the bus and visited each family together. We shared hugs as they showed their gratefulness with eyes full of tears. Each of us were touched by the overall appreciation they displayed. We couldn't stop talking about the different situations we saw, living conditions, amounts of kids, destitute etc. We all asked the question, what type of Christmas would they have had if it weren't for us. One family was a single father raising four beautiful children by himself. When you are blessed, you have to use your blessing to help someone else. This is something I have been familiar with from a young age. Growing up, before my little brother and I were allowed to open any presents, our mother would take us to different charity organizations to help pass out toys to kids who otherwise wouldn't have anything for Christmas. It makes you so much more appreciative of what you have.
However, throughout the nation, the real meaning of Christmas has been lost. I turn on the TV and am absolutely disgusted at what this once joyous occasion has become. I see little spoiled brats throwing tantrums in the middle of stores because they are not receiving their favorite toy. I see shootings and stabbings over play station 3's. I see families spending money they do not have in order to satisfy the need of some ungrateful kids, only to bring in the New Year in debt. I see parents fighting in toy stores over the last Tickle me Elmo Doll. I then see a bright light in the mist of darkness in the movie Nativity. I thought to myself, maybe this will remind society the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place. But to my surprise, this movie was met with criticism and denunciation. Articles calling for society to "do away with the manger" pop up like dandelions. People actually insisting for a shift in the focus away from the birth of Jesus become widespread. Individuals attempt to provide evidence in the absurdity of basic Christian beliefs such as Immaculate Conception, the resurrection, creationism, or the miracles of Jesus.
I ask myself, how did it come to this?
It's not a matter of commercializing his birth or obfuscating his true mission on earth; it's a matter of celebrating the momentous occasion which is the birth of our lord and savior. Now, if you don't view Jesus in that light, is it impossible to simply respect the fact that there are those who do? I think that is and has been one of the biggest problems in the world. People do not respect beliefs other than their own. To quote Common," Who am I to say to whom you pray ain't right"? Furthermore, not only do they not respect it, but they view it as their mission in life to convert, convince, or force (take your pick) others to believe what they believe. Don't think that I'm not including Christians. Many times Christians are the biggest culprits in this. That is one of my biggest problems with religion. "As long as there has been a God, there have been those who kill in his name."
Wars have been fought all throughout history because of the belief that "my god is better than yours". Scientists try to discredit every aspect of Christianity by attempting to make sense of things that aren't meant to make sense. That's where faith comes in. There is no scientific explanation for the resurrection, Immaculate Conception, or the miracles of Jesus. You have to either believe it or choose not to. But you can't take Christ out of Christmas. That would defeat the whole purpose of the holiday. Now, we all know that all evidence points to the fact that He wasn't actually born on Dec. 25th. Just like we know Jesus didn't look anything like the way he has been depicted. In fact, there are a lot of questions about the bible I have myself. Questions such as who exactly Mary Magdalene was, and why the Catholics labeled her a prostitute even though she was never described in the bible that way, or why certain books were left out of the bible, or if Jesus actually had a wife, what would that have changed, or why they chose to blend with certain Pagan practices etc., but that is more a reflection on man not on God. I have complete faith in God, man I have almost no faith in. But the problem is when people get caught in the wickedness of man and attribute that wickedness to God. There is a difference between being spiritual and being religious. But that's another essay.
Whenever anyone speaks out defending Christianity, they are immediately lumped into the category of some right winged, conservative, Super Christian republican. They are typecast as some bible belt, scripture throwing, holier than thou hypocrite who uses and pan handles Christianity for political gain. Please do not lump me with them. Again, that's a whole nether essay. But as much as much as I have a right to practice what I believe, others have a right to practice what they believe. I (unlike the Pope) feel that there is good in all religions, and therefore have respect for each and every one of them. Even if I don't agree with all of their beliefs, principles, and philosophies. Whether you practice Christianity, Islam, Rastafarianism, Buddhism, Judaism, Catholicism, Mormonism, Jehovah's Witness (just don't knock on my door at 7:00 in the morning), Scientology, or any of the hundreds of religions that are practiced throughout the world, you have a right to believe what you believe. But what you do not have a right to do is force that belief on someone else, discredit a belief that is different from yours, or feel somehow superior to another group that doesn't share in your beliefs.
Which brings me back to Nativity, Christmas, and Christianity? Celebrating the birth of our lord a savior Jesus Christ is a very special tradition. Bringing Christmas back to its original purpose is very important. The movie Nativity attempts to do just that. It's bad enough that we have been inundated with Santa Clause, reindeer, North Pole, greed, commercialism, and everything else Christmas has become. I'm not here to convince anyone to share in the practice of Christmas, just don't disrespect it.
More Than An Athlete
Follow Etan Thomas on Twitter: www.twitter.com/etanthomas36