Sunday, December 25, 2011

Awakening to Christmas

I had a chance to catch a bit of a terrific program on my local PBS station last week, after the last present for the gift drives was sent. "A Journey of Faith: Judaism and Christianity" explored some of the similarities between the two religions' philosophies too subtle for most of us to understand readily. I was happily surprised to discover that Judaism views the Lord's prayer in an experiential way, in the way that I have since I discovered the omnipresence of G_d when I was 5. I have always loved the reverential way Jewish people undertake life; the first time I attended morning prayer at the Shul where my former philosophy professor was the de facto rebbe I was, like probably some of the rest of the congregation, half asleep and going through the motions of reciting the opening prayers. It didn't take long before I started grousing silently. "Why do we HAVE to express our thanks for TREES?" Thankfully, the answer presented itself directly: without trees - beautiful, bountiful, diverse trees - life on earth wouldn't be possible. They're the lungs of our planet, sucking up and cleaning all the CO2 from the atmosphere. Then it hit me; why WOULDN'T we give our thanks and praise for other of G_d's creations without which our lives wouldn't be as pretty or even possible. All of a sudden, I was AWAKE.

I eagerly scanned ahead, up to the place in the prayers where the rest of the congregation had read while my attention had been diverted, slightly disappointed that I had missed the chance to praise water and whatever else I had inadvertently skipped.  Epiphanies are addictive, and I wanted more.  The prayers were soon over though, and, sadly, I realized so, too, was that moment.  That was the moment I truly understood what the word, 'bittersweet,' meant - and that other, blessed moments awaited other sacred hours, if I was only willing to be fully present.

Jesus could not have been the sage he was, if he hadn't been schooled in a tradition that revered the potential for goodness that inhabits every moment  and evidence of this divine wisdom in creation, and he couldn't have taught us, so succinctly, to abide G_d in every moment, every interaction with another, as he did in what we call the Agape doctrine, if he hadn't been the accomplished sage he was.  Here's hoping your holidays are filled with such moments, too. Cherish them all as the miracles they are.

Happy Christmas, everyone!

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