Last night the kids and I braved the cold, and went to get a Christmas tree. Beautiful tree, about seven feet tall.
The kids of this Muslim dad love to decorate the tree.
We have ornaments that come out every year, like old friends are happy to see again.
There is my son’s handmade ornament from when he was in first grade.
There is the cute framed picture ornament of the kids from a few years ago.
These handmade ones are my favorite.
Over my (initial) objections, some of the commercialized stuff is there too: My girl with the long hair that casts a magical spell over her daddy’s heart loves to hang up the Rapunzel ornament every year.
I swallow my objection, because I love my daughter more than I distrust commercialism.
We stick the angel on top, and the kids wait to see if I make my annual joke about the luminous angel with a tree up her butt. (I do.)
And I get to hang up my ornament. It is the one of Yoda.
Yoda, the green Jedi master who teaches my kids about the Force that binds us to all the living entities.
Yoda has been a guide for making sure my kids see God as the sum total of all the love in the world, not a bearded man in the sky.
Yoda is the through whom my kids understand what it means to be a Sufi master.
It is Yoda’s honor that I often describe myself as a Jedi-wannabe.
So reverently I take out this ornament. Except it’s more like a religious icon.
I lovingly glance at the face of Yoda, and for a moment I am like an Orthodox Christian, praying not to the icon, but through the icon;
I am a Muslim devotee praying not to the Friends of God, but near the Friends of God;
I am the Hindu devote receiving darshan, seeing and being seen by the gods.
Up goes the Yoda, patron saint of the Safi household (along with Rumi, the Prophet, a Buddha statue, and a Haghia Sophia replica image of Christ).
This is the time of the year where many Christians, some Muslims, quite a few Jews, lots of atheists, and other friends anxiously fret over the overpowering impact of Christmas and the culture wars. It is all somewhat amusing for me. The part of Christmas that I am least comfortable with is the commercialized aspect of the capitalist spirit taking over the Christ spirit. The part I am most comfortable with is the meditation on the reality of Christ entering this world.
Last year at this time I reflected on the experience of many whose suffering through the Christmas season makes it that much harder to view this as a season of cheer and good will.
I understand why so many worry about the participation in a Christian holy day subsumed under the dominant religion of this nation: consumerism. For my own part, the relationship with Christmas is more indicative of the way that I look at my own Muslim faith. Beauty, truth, and love are not the monopoly of any religion, any tradition, or any community. The sacred is not a zero sum game for me. Participating in Christmas does not dilute my own Muslim faith. I am not for uncritical assimilation, but I also have enough confidence in the beauty of where I stand to recognize the beauty of where my fellow human beings stand. Ultimately we breathe the same air, come from the same air, and are nurtured by the same love.
I also consider it an act of grace incumbent upon Muslims. If we are to consider ourselves the recipient of God’s last revelation, we are to be graceful in acknowledging every previous dispensation. We are to do so not as courtesy, but as acknowledgement of truth. What I am paying homage to is not Christmas per se (through all of the various permutations), but rather the faith of my Christian friends. Ultimately, the God that I worship is not a Muslim God, but the One God of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and atheists. If that God lovingly creates and sustains, the least I can do is to respect the creation of that God.
So yes, play on Julie Andrews, singing O Come All ye Faithful.
Play on Bob Seger’s Little Drummer Boy.
Play on Reba McEntire’s Christmas Guest.
Play on Loreena McKennitt’s God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman.
Play on Josh Groban’s O Holy Night.
Merry Christmas y’all.
Merry Yoda Christmas, from this Muslim Jedi-wannabe dad.