It didn’t feel like Christmas to me last week. Maybe that’s because it wasn’t; it was New Year’s Day. In a family of adults it was a no-brainer to switch our seasonal gathering to a day that was more convenient.
My daughter’s girlfriend is in the grocery business. I am a pastor. My wife is a hospital chaplain. We all have challenges getting one day off together. I am off on Christmas Day but am beyond exhausted following the intensity of Advent.
No, it didn’t feel like Christmas but that wasn’t because we were a week late. It didn’t feel like Christmas to me because I live in a multi-faith family. Our celebration was strictly secular.
Please don’t misunderstand me. This is not a piece by a Christian pastor complaining that there is a war on Christmas or that I am somehow persecuted. There is not and I am not.
I am also not unhappy about the spiritual journeys of my two adult children. I am thrilled my son has found Judaism, a faith through which the divine speaks to him. My daughter’s journey is harder to define but she has found Buddhist thought and practice meaningful.
We weren’t always this way. Both my children made their Christian Confessions of Faith and were baptized by immersion when they felt moved to do so.
My daughter sang Away in the Manger nearly as soon as she could speak but a particularly acidic church exacerbated her doubts as she began to question as adolescents question. The LGBT hostile teachings of so many churches and churchfolk didn’t help, either.
My son, who once wondered aloud to me if God was calling him to ministry, continued to search well into his adulthood. He was one of those rare young adults who found a church when he moved into a new community, but it wasn’t until he discovered Judaism that he found a faith that spoke to him.
As a Christian pastor, I am sad that the state of the church is such that so many young adults find no relevance in or are rejected by the church. As a father, however, who follows the teachings of Jesus, I am convinced that the extravagant love of the divine is actively involved in their spiritual lives. I am not worried about their personal salvation or their immortal souls. I speak proudly and openly about each of my biological and embraced children and their journeys.
I practice in my own home what I preach.
I trust my children. I also trust the Spirit to do the Spirit’s work. That is, if the divine has led my children to this place, I needn’t worry. God has not failed me yet nor will God fail my children. As the bumper sticker says, “God is too big for one religion.”
All that said, it didn’t feel like Christmases past last week.
Like the church in the twenty-first century, my family continues to transform. Neither the church nor my family are the same as they were in the past. That is a reflection of the divine nature. Ever creating, ever changing, ever transforming the divine lures us onward.
No, it didn’t feel like Christmases past last week. It felt like who we were in that moment: a family of three adult couples who love one another. We are a family of at least three faiths and six spiritual journeys who are learning to navigate the world as we find it while loving and respecting one another.
That is no small accomplishment.
Though I feel some sadness at what once was — excited children, the mythical simplicity of a one-faith family — I love who my biological and embraced children are in the present.
No, it didn’t feel like Christmas but that wasn’t because we were a week late. It didn’t feel like Christmas to me because I live in a multi-faith family and we’ve widened the circle. Our celebration was secular but not strictly so.
The essence of the divine was fully present in my multi-faith family last week. Our gathering was not like when my children were growing up. It was not like when I was growing up. What it was, was a seasonal gathering in which I felt God’s loving touch in every hug from my biological and embracing children
In the end, that is what matters. It’s not dogma and faith labels that matter but the divine love that holds humanity and creation together. That is enough Christmas for me.