Many years ago, my beloved, Russ, was on a business trip in Europe with a Christian colleague. As they toured some of the beautiful cathedrals during their off-time, they engaged in dialogue about their thoughts on various things related to religion. Russ was sharing information and ideas about Unitarian Universalism with his colleague. At that time, Russ was part of the teaching team for a religious exploration program called “Holidays and Holy Days.” They were talking about Christmas stories and how Unitarian Universalists approach the story of Christmas. Russ explained to his friend that in this program the children were taught that every night a child is born is a holy night, and that the message of Christmas is that the divine spark is instilled in every child. The colleague responded, “So, let me get this straight; this is Jesus’ big day and you’ve taken him out of the story?”
This may be how it seemed to someone who was taught, and believes, that original sin is a core religious concept, that in Jesus, God became human, and in Jesus our sins are redeemed. We Unitarian Universalists can keep Jesus in the story, even as we recognize that this story has been told in traditions older than Christianity. Another way to understand this story is as a story of original blessing, a reminder that in the story of Jesus’ birth we can experience every birth as a sacred event, the birth of hope, and a holy experience.
How might the world be if we saw one another, and ourselves, as originally blessed — inextricably interconnected, and inherently capable, competent, and connected? Yet, we perceive that there is much that separates us. We have learned that to be powerful we must have power over. We have learned that some people, and some beings, are inherently better than others, more deserving. We have learned that it is okay to abuse one another, take the earth and each other for granted, and to destroy beauty and life.
And so we turn to the Christmas story to be reminded, once again, that we humans can live into a different story. We can live into the story of humans as compassionate and caring beings. We can live into the model of ministry offered by the story of Jesus’ life: healing the sick, binding up the wounded, standing on the side of love for the oppressed, and speaking the truth of compassion to those in power. The essence of the Christmas story is a story told in many traditions over many millenia because it holds a universal truth: every night a child is born is a holy night, and every night a child is born, hope blossoms, love prevails, and peace is possible.