Merry Christmas

My friend, Nancy, renewed her Christian faith in her 50s. I asked her how she did it. “I re-interpret everything I hear,” she said.

Ai-yi-yi, i thought. That sounds like way too much work.

But let’s try it. Let’s translate the well-worn, worn-out greeting, “Merry Christmas” into Buddhist-speak.

Take the word “merry”–an old word, not much in use in nowadays. Merry Christmas, merry-go-round, Merry Wives of Windsor, merrymaking. Or “Row, row, your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily….”

Merry means joy or joyous, and joy is a more familiar word to us meditators. Joy is one of the Divine Abodes (Brahmaviharas). Joy is one of 7 factors of awakening. Joy is the first of the meditative absorptions (jhanas).

Christmas was originally Christ Mass–the mass celebrating the birth of the Christ-child (though he wasn’t a Christ yet.) The Christ is a personification of love and compassion. Some of my friends who both meditate and go to church say they like the loving-compassion of Jesus, while the Buddha left a boatload of very clear instructions for living our everyday lives.

A mass is a time of communion–communing with our spiritual community. Here we recognize the refuge of sangha–our spiritual friends who keep us on the high road even when we’d rather give in to our low-road impulses.

So, how does this sound?

Joyous love and compassion dear friends.

Or in the vernacular, Merry Christmas.

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