While I do not accept Jesus as my personal savior and pathway to God, as an observant Jew, I have absolute faith that Jesus is the savior, teacher, and path for my Christian and Catholic friends. I have no doubt that God wants them to be devout Christians (one of the reasons Jews don’t seek to convert others: we believe that God puts each of us in the belief system where we belong). I pray that all Christians embrace their faith tradition fully, and I support churches whenever possible in their holy work both financially and with my energy and work. And I will never wish anyone a “Happy Holidays.” It’s always “Merry Christmas!”
Christmas is an important holiday for humanity, and especially for Americans. Academics can discuss the historical realities of Jesus and his birth, but in doing so they miss the beauty, magnificence, and holiness of this important celebration. And in this progressively more secularized world, this holiday is even more important for all of us. While the Democrats want to make Jan. 6 a “holiday for their dark church”, it is crucial that all Americans respond by remembering the meanings and importance of Christmas.
That importance transcends theology. The teachings of Jesus (entirely based on Judaism, the religion of his birth, life, and death) are as valuable today as they have always been. The story of his birth, his acceptance of others, and the characteristics of this spiritual warrior who so elegantly combined tolerance, love, and ethical boundaries in the face of a corrupt government are especially valuable today. In a world that is constantly pressuring people of faith to secularize and adopt the government as their deity, we all need to hold on to our bulwarks of faith.
This nation is not built upon secular principles, but upon the models of spiritual warriors found in the Bible. George Washington reminded us of these values in his 1775 letter to Benedict Arnold. “While we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious not to violate the rights of conscience in others, ever considering that God alone is the judge of the hearts of men.” As the left works hard to create mandates and programs without regard to people of faith, we all need to stand up for each other and for those rights of conscience. All of my clergy friends of different faiths recognize that there is currently a war on religion. We are being attacked on all sides by the secular left and government trying to shut us down, most recently using the excuse of the virus. While many religious leaders have capitulated and closed their doors, others have fought back successfully to keep our houses of worship open. At no time is it more important than now for all churches to have open doors on Christmas.
The ritual observance of Christmas is meaningful and joyous, whether you truly accept Jesus or not. This is why for years I have made it a point to attend a Christmas church service. The love that is in the room, the tolerance for each other, and the spiritual impact of the experience: these are all manifestations of God’s Holy Presence in the world. I enjoin not only devout Christians to attend a Christmas service this year, but all people. If you are a “Christian in name only,” it may remind you of the importance and meaning in your religion. If you are Jewish or any other faith, it will help you understand your brothers and sisters in faith, and deepen your appreciation of the infinite magnificence of God.
So please don’t wish me a “Happy Holidays.” My holiday at this time of year is Hanukkah, or Shabbat (the Sabbath each week), and I would prefer a “Happy Hanukkah” or “Shabbat Shalom” rather than the offensive secular greeting. I would even much rather hear a “Merry Christmas” than watered down words that are secular attacks on all of us who place our faith in God as a priority. May we all be blessed with the joys and richness of this religious holiday, and may we all truly have a Merry Christmas.