Amidst the din of debate over the use of religious imagery in public "Holiday" (shall we change this word since it originally meant "holy-day"?) celebrations, a simple idea can escape our attention. This virtue is so powerful, it can change a person overnight and our world in a generation.
In historical order, every tradtion affirms this virtue.
In 164 BC, a rag-tag group of Jewish insugents defeated the larger armies of the Empire and restored pure worship in the Jerusalem Temple. The Menorah keep burning for eight days in spite of being empty of oil. The miracle of Channukah lives on in millions of Jewish homes.
A Child is born in barn, adored by lowly shepherds, heralded by angels and nurtured by a teenage Mother astounded by her role. Our very notion of history changes and billions affirm "peace on earth" every year.
Kwanza is a recent invention of African-Americans, but it does reach back to traditional celebrations of harvest and gratitude. Farmers of every culture and geography know that their labor can only do so much - they depend upon the right mix of rain and sun to bring bounty to the community.
What is this universal virtue? What is this radical idea that will change the world? It is humility, the simple reality that we are not the measure of all things and must bow to the One from whom our very breath comes as a gift.
Humility is the pathway to honor. When we consider others' needs before our own, we discover inner joy and we receive far more in return. Humility points us to a hope that reaches beyond our immediate gratification. Humility esteems other perspectives and persons without unhealthy self-abnegation. New insights and strategies on any number of issues are possible when our egos are in check.
Imagine a world with just a bit more humility. Families will argue less because children and spouses do not have to be "right" to be accepted and loved. Political demagoguery is abated as the issues are examined with a view to the long-term and not just the next election. Developers and environmentalists might realize that ecology and economics are rooted in the same word for stewardship of our planet.
Let's allow Christmas to be a public word, along with the Menorah and any other symbols that point our human family to humility and hope.
For myself, I will continue to chime, "Merry Christmas" to all I meet. If I find our someone who does not share my religious joy, I will find another way to be inclusive. Let's not muzzle the delight of this Season with fears that are more rigid than the ideas we are afraid of!
May this Advent Season be the dawn of a new humility in all your hearts!
PS - My new book, The Power of Faithful Focus, makes a great gift and affirms this pathway of humble hope.