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The God Squad: Rabbi meditates on his love for Christmas

December 31, 2010|By Rabbi Marc Gellman

I love Christmas and I'm a rabbi, so my love for Christmas is the love of a happy and respectful stranger. However, because of all that my dearest friend, Fr. Tom Hartman, taught me, I may, in fact, be a perfect stranger for Christmas.

In full disclosure, I must say that I love Passover and Purim, Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot, Shavuot and Shabbat more than Christmas. I do love Christmas more than Hanukkah, because Hanukkah is just a poor ripoff of Christmas nowadays, and even in the old days, the Maccabees led the Hasmoneans, who were the most corrupt dynasty of Jewish priests in history.

The best Jewish holidays are in the fall and spring. Winter is for Christians. This could be the real reason why Jews go to Florida and Arizona in the winter. I'm happy to cede winter to Christmas. I'm happy to love it the way all of us should learn to love those holidays that are great, but not ours.

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Every year, I run Seder meals for Christians, some of whom are jealous of Passover the way I'm jealous of Christmas. Jealousy is perhaps too strong a word. I don't want Christmas for myself, but I'm happy it's there for Fr. Tom and all the other Christians I love.

The first thing I love about Christmas is the twinkly lights. I know twinkly lights are not a high theological concept and, of course, I honor and acknowledge the Christian celebration of the birth of a Savior, a concept that leaves twinkly lights in the dust (snow?).

There's something sublime about Christmas lights. I think my twink-aholism began while growing up in Milwaukee (actually Shorewood), Wis., when my neighbor Dick Albrecht invited me to help decorate his Christmas tree. Some of the ornaments were glass tubes shaped like candles and filled with colored water. At the bottom of each tube was a light that heated the water, sending bubbles gurgling up the tube. Those ornaments were magical.

There's something about colored lights that's always joyous, but colored lights in the middle of winter on trees and houses are also a revelation. They remind us all that winter is only drab if we let it be so.

The lights are a promise that even in winter's seasonal darkness, we can have the joy those lights signify and, in fact, create. The lights are about joy, because at its heart, Christmas is about joy. I know Chanukah also has lights but they burn out, and I already told you I'm something of a Chanukah Grinch. Sue me.

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