I made the traditional French family call on Christmas Eve. My brother passed his cell phone around the dinner table, as I said hello to everyone. I then went to Christmas Eve candlelight services at the local church, and we all lit a kandelika for Jesus. I reflected on what his birth and life meant to me as someone who is theologically Jewish.
Although I believe that his life had enormous significance, I cannot ascribe divinity to him. Although I believe that he died for my sins, I do not believe that this forgives me of sin. I am responsible for my own sin, and I certainly would not accept that any creature assume that responsibility through the sacrifice of their life. He was larger than life. That he certainly could write, and yet left no written record of his life, suggests to me that the record of his life may have been more a deeply felt human need to believe in the divinity of a fellow human who could be sinless. I can’t know for a fact that he indeed was. That he set a beautiful example though the report of his life, with many of his reported words, and deeds, and sacrifice, there can be little doubt. That he has left a religion that works on many levels for many people, there can be little doubt. This, for the moment, is honestly where I stand. In awe of the man, but believing him to be somewhat different from whom he is portrayed to have been. An archetype, if you will, and a connection to my family. Still, worthy of honoring, but also conscious of the religious divide that ensued with the advent of a “new” religion. The first part is the life that he led and the example that he showed. The second part is the human social forces that contributed to a divide.
So, Christmas day was spent hiking out in the mountains. I headed out to Western Maryland, thankful that God had given me another beautiful day in the outdoors, and eager to demonstrate to myself that my body was not in fact, failing. The day began clear and gorgeous, although cool. As we headed west, the recent snowfall became more and more apparent. Arriving at Green Ridge State Forest, we were alone on the trail which was covered with snow.
The steep descent down the mountain was replete with about 3 dozen “pick your weight up out of the snow” moments. Many sections could have used a sled, skis, or simply boots that had traction on them.
The shoes got all soggy and wet, and at the winding beautiful river view,
we daringly crossed the snowed-over 5 foot high log bridges,
and crawled along the steep bank, praying not to fall in.
A little later, next to the interstate bridge, we managed to crawl back up on the steep snow-covered slope to the interstate, and with hands frozen numb from the crawl, finished the hike back up on the interstate. The weather being colder, I was conscious of the fact that my body (and heart) has to work harder, and one feels less. But we made it. It was much better than being inside with a lot of festivities and food, although I missed my family.