Most of us enjoy getting into the Christmas spirit.
I suspect that has more to do with exchanging gifts, taking time off work and getting together with family and friends than it does with religious beliefs.
All the same, the holiday can still be spiritual for most of us because it is one of the few times of year when we can relax and think about the way we live.
With that in mind, I’d like to share a condensed version of one of Christ’s less religious stories.
The tale isn’t just Christian with a capital ‘C’ since Christ is a prophet in both the Muslim and Jewish religions.
No one of any religion, for that matter, seems to have anything bad to say about Christ or his stories today, which is interesting since he was quite a rebel and disliked intensely by the temple authorities of his day.
I’m not a member of any church but I think all the major religions have something valid to offer and I think most of those things can be found in the area where the religions overlap, and for me Christianity sums that area up very nicely with its Golden Rule of, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”
In the Parable of the Good Samaritan Christ expands on that idea to take a shot at racism and prejudice.
He talks about a man who was walking down a steep winding road from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers.
They stripped him, beat him and left him half dead. When a priest came down the same road and saw the man he passed by on the other side.
When an upper class Israelite came to the place and saw the injured man, he passed by on the other side of the road as well.
But when a Samaritan came to where the man was lying, he took pity on him.
The mixed blood traveller went to the mugging victim and bandaged his wounds, treating them with olive oil and wine – both very expensive items in those days – then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.
The next day he gave the equivalent of two day’s wages to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
I think what Christ was getting at here is that you don’t have to wear fancy robes or a three-piece suite to be a good human being – and you don’t have to be from the right tribe or ethnic background.
Christ’s audience considered Samaritans to be the lowest of the low so to better understand the message maybe each of us should take out ‘Samaritan’ and substitute our own prejudice; Basarwa, Afrikaner, Zimbabwean, Manchester United supporter, whatever.
And if we could get it through our heads that where a person comes from and what he believes doesn’t matter nearly as much as how he behaves, then we’d stand a far better chance of getting into the proper Christmas spirit.