I told myself that I should limit the number of times I use my Celtic Way blogs to publicly process my faith identification journey, but that’s a difficult commitment to make this time of year. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, though my wife has successfully lobbied for Halloween’s popularity, currently coming in at #2. In so many ways I long for the Christmas of my childhood, not because we got lots of presents, which wasn’t always the case, but because of something deeper. I still have trouble putting my finger on it today, but I think it has something to do with a feeling of warmth that comes with the excitement my Mom would bring to the holiday every year. There was always something magical and intimate about the experience.
I long for those days, because I much prefer them to the way I tend to experience the holiday now, which is largely through the lens of theology. The magic and even some of the intimacy seems distant, giving way to the need to “understand” Christmas, and the reasons for it, more and more each year. It seems that this year is no different as I find myself circling back often to the question, “What do I believe about all of this?” It feels like yet another attempt of my mind to fall into the old and familiar pattern of defining something, so I no longer have to wrestle with it, and moving on.
Eckhart Tolle talks about this tendency. He says that when we hold a stone in our hands, it has the ability to communicate its essence, and reflect our own essence back to us. But the second we give it a label (“Stone”), we are given the illusion that we now understand all there is to understand. Now that it has been defined, we can put the stone down, move on to the next object, and repeat the process again.
Evolutionarily speaking, this habit is useful. It wouldn’t be a good situation if everytime we encountered something dangerous we evaluated the object to determine what it is. Our brain takes shortcuts in ways that help us survive, so when we see the dangerous thing again we simply know to leave it alone.
But as helpful as this can be in other areas of life, when it comes to my faith it seems like more of a hindrance than anything. In many ways I am exhausted by wrestling, by allowing paradox and doubt to simply exist without needing to get rid of it. Honestly, I really do wish I could just define my faith identity and move on. Christmas makes me wish I could all the more. But I know this would be dishonest. It would be a shortcut that would lack depth, authenticity, and most of what I find meaningful. So, the journey continues! I will continue to allow Advent and Christmas, as well as Yule (Winter Solstice), to shape me in ways I am too distracted by definitions to recognize. I am hopeful, actually pretty certain, that I will look back on these years with a sense of appreciation for how important they really were.
Ben Edwards is a Celtic Way contributor.
Read more about Ben here.