The world is made of stories, and traditions and rituals are the ways we collectively enact those stories and keep them going. Most would agree that many of our collective stories are dysfunctional, but to say they are not "true" is to miss the point. There are no true stories: stories, like anything else in the world of the senses, can only point to truth, make space for an experience of truth.
The senses are the portal, as we are flesh and blood creatures in this world. This is what has been given. And that's why I love Christmas, because it is a shared feast for the senses. We vary in what version of Christmas story we hold dear, but if we hold any of it dear at all, there are certain agreed upon symbols, colors, scents, etc. Surrendering to the profusion of those, for me, is what makes Christmas magical, even though I am well beyond childhood.
Representing a progressive Christian point of view, Richard Rohr says:
Christmas is a celebration of God become flesh, of the sacred presence which shimmers through everything in this world. The Incarnation is not an abstract theological principle, but an intimate flesh and blood invitation to celebrate the gifts of our senses and our bodies as portals to the divine. We are called to awaken to the holy birthing happening within us, not demanding our work, but our consent for this work to happen through us. And yes, this is much harder than it sounds.Thus, Advent and Christmas are for me a call to keen awareness of both light and dark within myself and in the world, and of my own power to bring forth light through surrender to the light that wants to come forth. I find myself, at this time of year, both brimming with gratitude for the grace in my life - the abundance I have done nothing to deserve, as well as more aware of where there is want.
This is what happens to Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. His transformation occurs out of awareness of want, both within himself and others, and gratitude that he has the power to do something about it. I recently read a commentary on Internet Movie Database which added a new dimension to my understanding of this:
The word "humbug" is misunderstood by many people, which is a pity since the word provides a key insight into Scrooge's hatred of Christmas. The word "humbug" describes deceitful efforts to fool people by pretending to a fake loftiness or false sincerity. So when Scrooge calls Christmas a humbug, he is claiming that people only pretend to charity and kindness in a scoundrel effort to delude him, each other, and themselves. In Scrooge's eyes, he is the one man honest enough to admit that no one really cares about anyone else, so for him, every wish for a Merry Christmas is one more deceitful effort to fool him and take advantage of him. This is a man who has turned to profit because he honestly believes everyone else will someday betray him or abandon him the moment he trusts them.People today who call Christmas a humbug, although they no longer use that word, often do so because of the nasty consumerist nature of it all, with which I have no argument. I would, however, point out, that consumption in and of itself is not a bad thing; it's what we do as creatures of flesh and blood. A feast, by its very nature, is an excess of consumption, and serves the purpose of celebration. Giving gifts and feasting both enact sharing of abundance in a way that stretches us; this, in my experience, is a healthy and valuable exercise occasionally. As with anything, what makes it valuable is how consciously, conscientiously, and imaginatively we go about it. It is in imagining and re-imagining what we already have that we create a better dream of life.
However, to me it's not so much about consuming as being consumed. By immersing myself in the sensory overload of Christmas; by pouring out creatively, financially, and energetically, I realize surrender of ego a little bit more. I am the Yule log, each year learning a bit better to surrender to the flame and thus become one with it.