Unless you were under a computer-free rock these past few weeks, you've probably seen the YouTube video "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus." With more than 16 million views, this video has stirred up quite the conversation on my Facebook feed.
The pursuit of happiness, one of the most popular subjects of contemporary spiritual writing, is also among the most superficially addressed themes in the church's homiletics. From Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking (1952) to Rhonda Byrne's The Secret (2006), seekers of the last 60 years have demonstrated an unquenchable interest in the power of spiritual technologies to better their well-being or cure anxieties and depression.
These popular approaches, with their insistence on the ability of individuals to affect their material conditions entirely independent of God, are decisively anti-Christian. All the more reason, then, for the church to offer a strong alternative.
This is where the church got it right: the season of Christmas (roughly 12 days) lasts for 15 days this year. This season overflows with celebration -- from the birth of Christ to the inspiration of martyrs and holy people. In the fashion of My Life with the Saints by Jesuit Fr. James Martin, the following is a reflection of the Christmas season through the lives and events of inspiration that we celebrate. Take some time each day to contemplate your life within the bigger picture of Christmas.
Day 1: Nativity of Christ
The birth of God's only son who came to offer light in the darkness, freedom to those oppressed and reconciliation to a broken world. Born in a manger and born along a journey, Christ is God's promise to those born vulnerable on the margins of society.
How does Christ's birth affect the way you express care to the least of these? Consider sharing your home with those in need so that others may never experience "no room in the inn."
Day 2: Feast of St. Stephen, first martyr