So, Christmas is a thing, right? Most of us look forward to it, a time when we can (maybe) stop for a few days to reflect and spend time with family. Food, drink and festivities all take centre stage, wondering if the turkey will be dry like last year, or what it will be like sitting around the dinner table without Grandad, now that he is gone.
Combined with New Years it can be and often is a time when there are the most reports of suicides and domestic violence over the festive period. I know for me, if I start to reflect, I can begin to question myself as my thoughts unravel into confusion about the rights and wrongs of the choices I have made.
Often my thoughts turn to God at Christmas. When I believed I used to spend this time in reflection and prayer. Thanking God for the gift of His son so that we could all know and have a relationship with the Father because sin had been dealt with once and for all. Reading books like God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, thinking, praying, seeking. Wanting guidance for the year ahead and being thankful for the year I had, whatever it was that I had gone through.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was and is a hero of mine. He decided to stand up against the Nazi regime by opposing the Church within Germany, a church which had begun to support and even praise the actions of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. Mr Bonhoeffer had a way of looking at the world which helped me refocus at times like Christmas, or when things were hard.
When I reflect, I can see very clearly that most of my life has been based around doing, rather than being. Only in the last couple of years, as I have uncovered my non-belief in God, have I begun to learn how to be, rather than do. Christmas is a fantastic time for me to attempt to be and to refrain from doing so much. I guess you could ask my wife how well I do on this front, I am sure she would say I am still very much a ‘do’er over our Christmas time.
There seems to be a lot of good evidence that people have celebrated the 25th of December in festive ways for a very long time. Christianity was known to take over a culture or society and turn their pagan festivals into Christian festivals, making Christ the sole focus of the festivities. There is a really interesting article by the Independent that looks at the possibility that people were celebrating the 25th of December 300 years before Jesus was even born, you can find it here.
This Christmas is going to be hard for me. I have lost two grandparents and a whole host of very close friends from Church and the Christian charity I used to work for since I lost my faith. Some really good friends don’t return my messages anymore, when once they would support me and love me with no restrictions. They have found out I don’t believe a certain doctrine and they can become scared and have left me behind. Fear drives a wedge between people, disrupting the relationship or fear draws confrontation to the foreground, seeking a resolution but possibly destroying a relationship in the process.
Fuck man – this year has been really hard. There is no God I can call too for help and comfort. There are so few friends that I have left, a handful at the most who love me and my family for us, not for what I or we believe.
This year I am going to enjoy a Christless Christmas, taking stock of where I have come and utilising the mindfulness skills I have been honing, so that I can be present with the ones I love, right here and right now. If it is hard, or easy, peaceful or manic – right here and right now is always better than hanging hope on tomorrow – tomorrow never comes, we only have each today.
I need to keep reminding myself, as family send Christian messages and my social media feeds blow up with the Biblical birth narratives of Jesus – it doesn’t matter if I don’t believe in the background story, and it doesn’t matter if people don’t know that I don’t believe it. What matters is family, friends, mindfulness and being present.
Enjoy the journey, because there isn’t a destination. Embrace everyone, because the deepest fears we all flee from are fears of being alone.
So, with that I leave you to your Christmas. Wherever you are and with whatever you believe, be present and realise that you can bring peace and love to the settings you are within during this holiday season.
On that note, I am going to go and play with my family – my boys won’t be young forever, so I’m going to enjoy this, right now.
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Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. It has taken me a few years to get to a place where I am able to share my loss of faith and to start writing about the journey that I am still on for you all. I hope you find it useful.
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