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Raised in a completely secular household, I have always been a bit uncomfortable with organized religion.  Which is not to say that it has not attracted me or even, for short and sometimes quite bright periods of time, commanded my complete attention.

I first attended church in the company of a friend and her family.  And I found something in the music and stained glass and plaster saints that touched a chord in me.  So much so that years later, as the mother of young children, I choose to raise them Catholic.  

I left Catholicism, I suppose, for many different reasons, not the least of which was a staggering personal trauma which, for a time, made belief in anything inherently optimistic difficult.

But the truth is that, even before all of that and no matter how much the beauty and grandeur of the Catholic church moved me, my issues of conscience with the church were my undoing.

So while angels and heaven and all avenues of spirit are intensely important to me, the institutionalization, or perhaps the socialization, of those things never quite works out for me on a personal basis.  Despite this, however, religion with its music and light and very real spiritual presence has at time touched me deeply.

This year, I celebrated Christmas in a mostly secular way.  There was a small tree and an electric menorah and a simple exchange of gifts.  Today, on Christmas Day, I hung out in my pajamas and watched a movie and a documentary in the company of my kids and both shows had to do with Christmas.

The movie was a 1990s version of "A Christmas Carol" which featured Jean-Luc Piccard and some made for TV special  effects.  That said, it was a really wonderful movie telling Dickens tale of the transformation of a hard-hearted miser into a warm and generous ambassador of Christmas spirit both accurately and movingly.

This, I thought, is the thing about Christmas which is so wonderful and so fundamentally and completely non-sectarianly Christian - the Christmas spirit filled with kindness and compassion and love for our fellow man which is so intense that it morphs instantaneously into joy.

The second show was history channel documentary addressing the historical accuracy of the churches teachings about the birth of Jesus.  It was an interesting show and while it did not necessarily prove or disprove anything, it did raise some interesting points.

The parts I found most compelling, however were the comments offered by Dr. Judy Yates Siker of Loyala University. Speaking of Christianity she tells us "that there are those who would argue that its based on a lie. That its based on false rumors of disciples who stole the body of Jesus to make a good story.  And yet somehow this story has made its way through history and time in a way unequaled."

This couldn't be more true and is of itself a testimonial. 

Of the Christmas story Dr. Siker said, this "is an account based the recollection of people like you and I, who had an experience of God's presence which was so powerful that they couldn't hold it in.  It's a story of mystery and a story of hope - replete with the possibilities of peace and good will in a world where both are in short supply."  

And this is true as well.  True enough to make me think that next year I might check out midnight mass, though I would undoubtedly just be visiting.

May the spirit of Christmas, touch us all, if even indirectly.

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