The Meaning of Christmas?

it’s a time for reflection, a time for remembering. it’s a time for sleeping and wondering.

No matter what you might think of this time of the year, there is one constant around the world. Winter is a time of renewal for earth and body, in spirit and mind. The utter destruction and chaos as the news relates the daily collapse of the Trump world feels like an end, which it very much is. But in that ending there is the potential and maybe even promise of a better new world.

That is the real story of Christmas – no matter how you want to read it.

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Sermon on the Mount

We have discussed what Christianity isn’t, at least in terms of a political agenda pushed by some. We’ve talked about where his teachings may have come from and the unique moment in history that brought the world together. But what exactly did he say?

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What Did Jesus Teach? And Why?

It’s one thing to say what Christianity is not, but quite another to say just what it is. It is easy enough to rail against its use as a political tool to support an agenda of control, but how was it a radical religion of liberation?

This is a good topic for the season, as the Western world contemplates the real meaning of Christmas. That story alone is an interesting one because it is nearly the only information known about the man named Jesus before he was thirty years old. It’s also dubious at best, but let’s leave that aside. Let’s even leave aside what Jesus himself actually preached. What did he do for thirty years? Where did he learn and meditate and eventually produce the faith that now dominates the world?

It’s a fascinating story with no clear conclusion. But we have some clues which point to a very different view of what Christianity is than what is common understood in the Western world.

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Start the Year Right

Happy New Year! In this time of turmoil it’s hard to say what the turn of the calendar will bring. Yet it remains true that life is what we make of it.

Barataria promises to dedicate itself to spreading as much peace, brotherhood, and happiness as possible in 2017. We’re all going to need it. Someone has to lead the way – which is just what this piece is about.

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Pope Francis, Teacher

Pope Francis has arrived in the United States.

The focus on his Holiness revolves around his challenges to the American right, something that largely misses the point. There will be admonishments to the left as well when he addresses Congress and the people of our nation – and those will likely be reported with a hint of glee in the press as they search for an “objective” sense of “balance”. But that, too, will miss the point.

Francis challenges all of us to step outside of our bizzy lives and see the world as a beautiful place. The message is that it is time to stop and see creation for what it is.

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Empathy

Empathy. It’s a powerful concept that’s become one of the hot buzz words at the end of this year. Much has been written and said about it lately, and for good reasons. Our politics, which is little more than the collective values of people forced to share a social space with each other, is often rightly criticized for lacking in basic empathy. The message of Pope Francis comes down to a call for more empathy for those who are in pain, not power. But what is empathy?

There are many ways to define it, but the simplest is “The ability to share another person’s emotions.” Empathy defies not just logic, but space – it’s about stepping outside of yourself for at least a moment. It’s a connection to the pain that others feel beyond any logical argument. And true empathy comes when you can do this for people you otherwise don’t even like.

The lack of empathy goes many ways, however. This Christmas is a good time to truly practice empathy.

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