Pagan Christmas


The Birth of a Child

This world will change. It will become the place those kings and shepherds dreamed of. The one angels from the stars announced and promised. We just need to have that kind of belief, that kind of hope in our hearts. Christmas is a time, I believe, to remember that.

I wrote this in 2006. Each year I post it, and while it's been 12 years now, it's all the more relevant this year: this year when Wylie is beginning to understand people believe and celebrate different things. When Samaire is on the cusp of re-ordering what she believes in and why. We discussed the origin of so many of our winter holidays just a couple nights ago, and I can see them both understanding and really internalizing these discussions now.

Now, when it's so important.

Now, when I want her to feel the magic and possibility --- to feel empowered and joyous and loving. They need that so much. We all do.

This all came from a conversation Sam and I were having (a lifetime ago now) on how we would explain to our someday-kids what Christmas was, and then, most confusingly, why we celebrate it. I mean, Sam and I are Pagans. I am a Witch. There is no denying it, no shying away from it. And that is how we plan to raise our children. There will be no Easter for them, no All Saints Day. How will we explain the sudden onslaught of Christian winter-time tradition in our home?

Because, well, there it is. It's not blatant, or overly wrought, but it's there nonetheless. Sure, instead of a crèche we have a Rudolph scene complete with not one, but FOUR Bumbles and three Jedis. There's the music, the trees, the lights . . . everything else. And of course there will be a Christmas morning.

How to explain? Sam mentioned it might be a tad confusing. I scoffed at him. He mentioned perhaps we could scale back a little. I almost refused to continue speaking to him.

I mean, I LURVE me some holidays. And while our "true" holiday is Solstice, which our family celebrates in full rigmarole and joyous occasion - I simply do not want to give up Christmas morning. Or carols. (All the other stuff I could keep, as it was all stolen/borrowed/repurposed from Pagan traditions to begin with anyway. But the "Silent Nights" and "God Rest Ye's" - there's no real getting around that.)

Yet to me, it's quite simple. I'm not celebrating the birth of our savior, god's only son. I'm not celebrating all that entails, and by the look of the general marketplace, neither are a lot of other people.

I am, however, celebrating the birth of a child and the hope that surrounded that child. Christmas, to me, is about the sheer wonder and amazing tenacity a large part of the world showed (shows) over the birth of one, small, helpless child.

I love the story. A small family - not royal, not famous, not rich - expects a child. Under circumstances that aren't ideal. They do their best to prepare; they do their best to be safe. And while they are trying desperately to keep it together, to make a home, a safe respite for their small blessing - something else happens. The news spreads. Kings lift up their scabbards, robes, and scepters and begin traveling to where they believe the baby will be. Small groups of shepherds herd their flocks to be near; people gather. All kinds of people from all kinds of places. They gather with hope in their hearts, anticipation in their souls.

They believe that this small babe will change the world. Make it better. Make it brighter. Bring them light.

They don’t know how, or why. Just that this will happen. And they want to play a part. They want to honor this symbol of hope, this symbol of light. This child. They want to kneel before him, before his family, on that dark cold night. They know not else to do.

But somehow, in the story, that is enough; that they believe in the hope of this child. That the world can be made better, different, more lovely.

Peaceful. Hopeful. Beautiful.

By this, the smallest of creatures.

(Who among us, even today, wants to believe differently?)

People's hearts were turned that night. And stayed turned for centuries. All because one small child was born. Because people believed that was all it took.

One. Small. Child.

Savior or no, I still believe that's all it takes. The hope that one small, helpless, lone being can change the course of a world gone wrong; can turn hearts and minds to a better place. To making a better place.

Sure, most people celebrate Christmas because their savior was born that night. I celebrate because a CHILD was born that night. That thousands were, and are, and will continue to be - that night, this night, and all the nights to follow. And with each comes the blessed hope that things will be made right. Better. Peaceful.

Our world can change its course, and with every night star, every birth, every gathering - that hope should be renewed. Should be recognized, acted upon, celebrated.

Because, each of us, in our time, was that child. We were that hope. We are that hope. We perpetuate it.

This world will change. It will become the place those kings and shepherds dreamed of. The one angels from the stars announced and promised. We just need to have that kind of belief, that kind of hope in our hearts. Christmas is a time, I believe, to remember that.

If once, years ago, the world stopped for a night in the awe of the hope that one small child would make their world a better place - than perhaps we should too. Perhaps the idea that one small, ordinary person can change our world - our lives - isn’t such a crazy notion.

Perhaps the thought that we can do so isn't so crazy either.

That's what I'll tell my kids at least. That they were born one day, to a small family that desperately only wanted to do right by them - give them a safe, happy home. And that this family believed, with everything in their hearts, that their child would make this crazy, tossed up, frightening world a truly brighter place.

That we each can.

And every Christmas season I recognize that. That each child is born beneath bright, clear stars - with the power to bring kings to their knees and make angels sing. And that is worth recognizing, celebrating, honoring.

At least I think so.

Misty Bell Stiers