Christmas and The Spiritual Gene

I wrote this a while back but decided to use it for today’s writing instead of writing my usual 20 minutes a day. I made this choice because I’ve just spent the past four hours with my students, editing their college essays. I’m thinking I have done some serious writing today and on top of that, I’m a little tired. I also edited this piece, which probably took me 20 minutes, so I guess I’m still honoring my daily writing commitment.

Here’s to a good evening, my friends. Stay warm, dry, and safe.

When I was growing up, my mother wouldn’t let us decorate the tree until Christmas Eve. “After all,” she’d say, “Christ isn’t born until Christmas Day and there are twelve days of Christmas.”

As a kid, I was pretty lukewarm on the waiting-to-decorate decision. After all, half the fun of Christmas seemed to be the twinkling lights on the tree, the lights that you could sit and stare out when everyone else had gone to bed and all the house lights were off. That was the magic of Christmas, those red, blue, green, and yellow bulbs casting rainbow shadows in the room.

I don’t like the commercial aspect of Christmas. I’d be perfectly happy if there was no gift exchange. I love the cooking and the gathering and the Christmas Mass, preferably the Midnight Mass. For the past two years, we’ve gone to the “Children’s Mass at 5 pm on Christmas Eve and that’s been okay. Not majestic like Midnight Mass, but pretty enough.

I have spent every Christmas for my entire life in church on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Well, let me take that back. I don’t think I went to church when I lived in Italy that year right out of college. That was my non-believer stage. But, besides that, I have been in church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day all of my life. Some might think that’s unimaginative of me, but I like to think of it as honoring my spiritual side.

I have a daughter or two or maybe three, who don’t “get” my spiritual side. They honor it, meaning they go with me to church on occasion but they don’t really connect with what’s going on when we’re there. At least, that’s what they say and I have no reason to believe they are not being completely honest. Still, in the past year or two, I’ve suggested that perhaps we didn’t need to go to church on Christmas Eve, particularly Midnight Mass, and I get stern looks, especially from my middle daughter. “Mom, we always go to church so we’re going.” I have to smile internally. The Holy Spirit is alive and well even among my non-believing family. Of course, they would say it’s just family “tradition,” and that’s fine, but from my point of view, it’s the Holy Spirit. My oldest daughter would say, “Of course, that’s what you would think, Mom. But I didn’t get that gene.”

Scientists who study the brain say there may in fact be a “spiritual” gene. For those of us who are comfortable with the “unseen realm” of angels and archangels, the idea that some people find this silly or slightly crazy seems odd. How could you not believe in something greater than yourself, after all, with the myriad of evidence out there in the world? The vast variety of flowers, fish, birds, and plants just for starters, or the billions of stars out in space? How could all of that exist without some higher intelligence? Or the healing power of love? Where does that come from? Or qualities that make our world better, such as faith and hope? These are all “unseen,” and yet carry such profound power.

I am not a philosopher. I have not spent a lot of time dissecting my faith; looking for the logic. I can not defend it particularly well. Faith for me is so elemental, so basic that it feels as natural as breathing to me. Alas, many of those around me do not have the “gene.”

I respect everyone’s beliefs. I have no special answers. I do know what brings comfort to me and what seems to make sense from my perspective. That is, however, my personal belief system and that’s all.

I’m glad I have the spiritual gene if there is one. I’m glad because it heightens my life experience.

For those who think all of that is a bunch of bunk, I can say, “Perhaps it is.” We won’t know until it’s too late to have a conversation about it.

Either way, Merry Christmas to all, no matter how you chose to celebrate or not celebrate.

You won’t be surprised to hear that I went to Christmas Eve Mass.

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