The rebirth of unconditional love

Those who do not believe in Christianity can believe in Christmas and its deeper spirit. And therein lies the magic.

NEWFANE — It's that time of year again. That lovely time of year. The decorations, the Santas ringing their bells, the holiday music, Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney in a letterbox version of White Christmas, Rudolf, Christmas cookies, Christmas parties.

There are many Christmases. There is the religious Christmas that has nothing to do with Santa or Bing or Rudolf, none of whom appear in the Bible.

There is the family Christmas: turkey, presents, gatherings, travel, cleanup.

There is the public Christmas: the national tree, the tree at Rockefeller Center, the lights around the neighborhood, the office party, the shopping mall.

And there is the friends-and-acquaintances Christmas: the cards, incoming and outgoing; the wishes of good cheer; and what to do with yet another calendar with the pretty pictures and the company's advert placed in clear view.

The fact is that Christmas is no longer just a religious holiday the same way that Halloween is no longer just a Celtic holiday. That Christmas has become more than it was should not be a threat to those who celebrate the religious Christmas.

The opposite is also true. Those who do not believe in Christianity can believe in Christmas and its deeper spirit. And therein lies the magic.

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There is a universal Christmas that permeates all the others, that not even the hardest-nosed cynic complaining about commercialization can dampen.

It is the secret Christmas that people of all backgrounds, cynic or saved, believer or skeptic, romantic or materialist, young or old, can feel - understand - on a personal level and love and celebrate in their own quiet way.

This secret Christmas is, indeed, consistent with the original religious intent, but it finds many more ways of manifesting itself.

This is the Christmas of renewal, transcendence, grace. It is innocence regained. It is goodness rediscovered. It is finding that within you a beautiful child still exists.

This is the Christmas in which we easily realize the simple love we have for the people in our lives. It is missing and loving those who are no longer here, but feeling connected to them anyway.

It is the spirit of all of those beautiful redemptive stories: Rudolf, the outcast, whose silly red nose saves the day; Scrooge, who sees his past, present, and probable future, and yet is given a second chance.

It is Frank Capra's exquisite It's a Wonderful Life, in which the Jimmy Stewart character, trapped in a little town but plagued with a lifetime dream of travel, sees the true worth of his life and is given a second chance.

It is the Littlest Angel, who doesn't seem to measure up, and yet, whose love becomes the star that guides the way for three wise men seeking a manger.

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Christmas lives in many forms, all of which touch something locked away inside.

It is the renewal of your true nature, the awakening of your spirit, the restoration of your natural goodness, the rebirth of unconditional love.

It's nostalgia for a time that never existed, and it reminds us of what Jack Kerouac taught us in On the Road, “Life is Holy, and each moment is precious.” These experiences live within you in a secret place, and are given new voice each newborn Christmas.

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