Why One Rabbi Loves Christmas

Rabbi Marc Gelman, famous for his part in TV's "The God Squad," wrote a piece in this week's Newsweek that can serve as a reminder to all of the true meaning of Christmas. That's right, the rabbi gets the last word on Christmas! As this year's December Dilemma Watch draws to a close, Gelman's words are a reminder of our innate ability to rise above the squabbles, the protests, the boycotts, and the lawsuits--and focus on the lovely and varied spiritual aspects of this time of year. In his words:

"I love miracles. I have seen a few and heard of many. None of the miracles I have ever seen involve splitting a sea or feeding a great multitude from a challah bread and some herring. The miracles I mostly see involve the transformation of old enemies into reconciled friends, the transformation of sick marriages into loving ones, the spontaneous remission of diseases, the return of a smile to a face creased with the frowns of grief, the breakthroughs in learning by a child who was deeply challenged the return to mobility of the disabled, the understanding of a new way for prayer or mediation that brought hoped-for serenity to a storm-tossed soul, the commitment to a life of health after a life of tragic self abuse, the way lost people are suddenly found and mostly the way people without hope discover that religion saves them from hell.

All these miracles and more gain new light and luster in this season of miracles. I love that Christmas is a holiday for the celebration of miracles. That is what I love most."

The Renewable War

In this week's New Yorker magazine, writer Hendrik Hertzberg writes that the war on Christmas is neither new nor compelling. But society has made some progress, he intones, in the sense that previous accusations of anti-Christmas activity were cloaked in the language of anti-Semitism. "It is not religious tolerance in the midst of religious difference, but religious attack that they"—the Jews—"preach and practice," wrote Henry Ford in 1920. "The whole record of the Jewish opposition to Christmas, Easter and certain patriotic songs shows that." At least that one aspect, the "war on Christmas," as it is renewed in each generation, has less of a sting than it once did.

Revenge of 'Bad Santa'

Yesterday we reported a story about a "Bad Santa" display that was taken hostage in Manhattan. Turns out the story is bigger than one man's home display. Reuters ran this story today about the worldwide scourge of bad Santas. Drunken Santas on a rampage in New Zealand, armed German robbers wear Santa disguises, a British St. Nick is wanted for flashing, and a Swedish vandal also dons a Santa outfit. Perhaps worst of all, in London, a "foul-mouthed" Santa made some children cry.

Governors: Merry _______ Day

Thirty-six out of the 50 state governors in America wished their constituents a generic "happy holiday" in their 2005 cards, according to a Stateline.org study out today. Those 36 are evenly split down party lines--18 Democrats and 18 Republicans. While some people will continue to object--as they did to President Bush's non-Christian holiday card--to the generic wording, another study, from the Pew Center for People and the Press declares the holiday greeting flap ho, ho, hum. According to that group, far more people are disturbed by the commercialization of Christmas than by the semantics of holiday greetings.

'Bad Santa' Faces the Music

Manhattan resident Joel Krupnik might have thought he was being funny when he erected a "Bad Santa" display in front of his home, but a local group was not amused. The group, calling themselves "The 7th Avenue Boys for a Merry Christmas," has apparently stolen the offending display, which features Santa holding a severed doll's head, and is holding the head for ransom until the owner writes "I am sorry for being a bad boy" 1,000 times. Krupnik said that he put up the display to show his displeasure at the commercialization of Christmas. But the 7th Avenue Boys did not see Krupnik's point. "Although it's technically illegal, sometimes we have to cross the line and sacrifice our possible well-being to protect children's hearts and minds and their innocence," a spokesman for the anonymous group said in a statement.