So, there. There is a connection between what is called Christmas in our culture, and some of the themes of the stories that Christians listen to and others may appreciate. People are, indeed, the same.
Let me put in a plug for another way of marking the birth of Jesus.
In some churches, the songs being sung in early December can be off-putting to sentimentalists. The hymns of Advent are sometimes serious indeed.
A Second Coming of the Lord is proclaimed. A word of judgment is revealed.
There is a sense of longing as people sing "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (meaning Godwithus). I remember my former church's choir singing "Let all Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" with the pitch sounded by handbells, sounding mysteriously, as from a distance.
It brings shivers for me to write these words.
So I can leave some of the hurly burly of December and sit in a church where candles are lit, marking the passage of four Sundays called Advent.
I am being prepared to hear the stories of the birth of Jesus in its fullness, its pathos and sorrows, along with the word that the child will become a person who will offer to many a new way.
I like this approach, which was denied me when I was growing up in the austere Presbyterianism of my youth. I learned Advent thinking from an elderly Episcopal minister who taught me new things about this season.
I shall never forget him.
Take heart, all. The central meaning of the season is, as Christians understand it, that the word, the self expression of God, dwells with us, full of grace and truth.
This message may be one of hope for Christians, and those who live in hope, though not holding to that version of faith.
For years, I avoided saying Merry Christmas, feeling that to offer merry-ness is not at the heart of the story.
These days, at least, I say these words to myself, knowing that at the heart of these days, as the year turns, there is a deep need for some source of joy.
Posey, a retired Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) minister, writes from his home in Charleston.