Togetherness. Of all the persistent themes and intentions of the Christmas Season, this is the one that's always seemed the most appropriate to me. As a child and a young man I was rootless and disconnected from my family. Thankfully enough, both of those situations changed. Nowadays I look at this time of the year for the opportunity it brings to be with people, to engage with them, to form community. That's the essential gift of Christmas to me.
All of which leads me to consider what the greatest gift we can receive might be. I'm not speaking of us as individuals but rather as a collective, as a species. My Christian friends would say that the gift of Jesus' birth would be that perfect gift. Others from different ideologies and belief systems would have significantly ideas. For me, there are political, economic, environmental, social and spiritual gifts to consider before I could choose a definitive one.
But there is one that comes readily to mind.
About twenty-five years ago I was gifted with the opportunity to be an elders helper. He was a staunchly traditional man and very spiritual. We were talking about Jesus' birth. Neither of us, being followers of Native ceremony, was too big on the whole Immaculate Conception thing but we both agreed that Jesus was a great and venerable teacher whose birth was a benchmark for human spiritual progress.
Then my friend told the story of how we come here as human beings in a Native context. He spoke of how we are inherently spiritual, that we arrive here as spirit, that we emerge into the world and into out bodies as spirit. It's the same for everyone regardless of religious or spiritual background, he said.
What makes us the same are the two first human reactions that we have when we arrive here. First, we emerge suddenly into a world of sight and sound. It scares us. We emerge from the safety, security and warmth of our mother's belly where we felt nothing but total love and nurturing. We desperately want to return to that. So we cry. That's the first human reaction that we have - an emotional reaction to experience.
Then, because we have that emotional reaction we express it physically. We reach out. We stretch out our tiny arms for the feeling of someone else, to bring them closer, to hold them, to feel belonging, acceptance, love and community. So we reach out and that is the second human reaction that we all have in common.
It's what makes us human, he said. It's what makes us the same. If we could all remember what we did in complete innocence and trust, we could change the world he said. I believed him then and I believe him now. Because in a world that exists in such varying degrees of separation at such diverse levels; familial, class, community, financial, religious, ideological and political to name only a few; we desperately need the gift of something that closes those gaps.
If we could all go about our lives having emotional reactions to our human experience and follow that up with an earnest reaching out to share that experience we would change the planet. The way we relate to one another would change dramatically. Our families would change. Our neighborhoods, communities, municipalities, provinces, and nations would change.
Is it a gift? Most assuredly. It's a gift we give ourselves. It's a gift we are born carrying. We just forget we carry it. From my house to yours, have the merriest and brightest of Christmases!