That Time of Year

It’s that time of year, you know?
As a child, Christmas was important to me. Yes, I wanted the presents and, despite the fact we were a big family and money was pinched, we always had presents, lots of “em. Opening them was a major event, took several hours to accomplish as each person opened one at a time so everyone could share in the joy and excitement. More, there was Midnight Mass and the breakfast afterwards where my mother and her sister managed to prepare eggs that came out sunny side up for ten people. Still don’t know how they managed that. And even more, I was lead soprano in the boy’s choir and Midnight Mass was our big moment.
Time passes.
Incidents pile upon incidents so that, by high school, I am seriously questioning the faith bestowed upon me. New knowledge begins to build new suspicions: the Buddha was a virgin birth long before Jesus was; the New Testament was finalized hundreds of years after his death; papal infallibility was discovered in the 1800s; the Eucharist constitutes ritual cannibalism; the Crusades were more about power and money than faith; the idea that Christmas in December was established to help pagans be more at ease in their conversion, a liturgical convention based on pragmatics; and on and on. By the time I left home for the Army, age 17, I was a non-believer.
Then, I met and married TLWSHLWM. At that point, I was not an inspiring person, three quarters of the way to alcoholism. I needed something to keep me focused on her. We found it in a faith-based organization we helped grow and build. For a few years I was a good Roman Catholic because it provided a framework for being better than I had been.
And, then I wasn’t.
More events, the terrible handicap given to our daughter and the faith-based community’s lack of either support or understanding. Reading Karen Armstrong’s The History of God and The Battle for God. More reading on comparative religion, more thinking, more decisions. I dropped out. Organized religion became for me exercises in power and my distrust grew by leaps and bounds, only to be confirmed by the scandals that began to erupt and the miserable cover-ups attempted. And, then, in the New Millenium, the appearance and power of fundamentalists who act in direct opposition to the faith they profess convinced me that faith has little to do with anything.
So, TLWSHLWM and I will be opening presents Christmas Eve. We have sent presents to family and friends. And none of it, for me, has anything to do with the birth of Christ. It has everything to do with family, caring, and tradition, family tradition.

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