Miriam and Isa (Mary and Jesus) from Wikimedia Commons

Miriam and Isa (Mary and Jesus) from Wikimedia Commons

Most people want to do nice things for their neighbors and others they care about.  But it has become culturally awkward and very uncomfortable to do thoughtful things for those around us, because we have been trained to think everyone has got to have an angle.  When we want to do something kind and thoughtful, our whole motivation is damaged merely knowing there’s a chance the recipient might think we’re looking for the “angle.”  Goodwill is important–foundations and foundation support linked to philanthropy are responsible for a growing and significant chunk of our economy.  But giving without an excuse feels very weird.

Camel Luminaria at LDS Temple Square, photo by Flinders Family

Camel Luminaria at LDS Temple Square, photo by Flinders Family

That’s one thing about Holidays which makes me grateful–they provide the excuses we need to do the nice things we know in our hearts we want to do.  A young family who lost their father to cancer were surrounded by neighbors who wanted to show they cared, and Christmas provided the perfect opportunity for the neighborhood to act as the family’s Secret Santa.  The story of the Virgin birth and the first Christmas in Luke 2 resonates with many, and not just with Christians.  There is quite a bit about Jesus and Mary in the Qur’an, too.  My friend Dr. Nassar Mansour, Department Head of Visual Arts at WISE University in Amman, Jordan, created a remarkable portrait of Jesus which he shared at the Treasured Truths exhibit a few months ago.

The Birth, Photographed by Hawkinson Studios

The Birth, Photographed by Hawkinson Studios

The story of Jesus, his mother, and his miraculous conception and birth is one of universal hope.  The Nativity in the Qur’an takes place in an oasis, where the date palms gave their fruit to Mary (called Maryam in Arabic) when she hungered, and the water gave itself freely when she thirsted, because they knew she was carrying the infant Jesus (Isa in Arabic).  Although not considered the Logos of God in quite the same way as Christians recognize him, Muslims respect and regard Jesus as the First Among Saints, and the perfect example of obedience to the Divine Will.  “You would be foolish,” an Imam told me, “not to emulate his life.”

Old Persian Miniature of Virgin Mary and Jesus, from Wikimedia Commons

Old Persian Miniature of Virgin Mary and Jesus, from Wikimedia Commons

Malik Merchant, my friend who edits Simerg.com, contributes two articles about Christmas themes from a Muslim perspective:  the miraculous conception of Jesus, and Jesus and the status of Mary.
Luminaria at LDS Temple Square, photo by Flinders Family

Luminaria at LDS Temple Square, photo by Flinders Family

It is very easy to be overwhelmed by fear and hopelessness, but Christmas provides a perfect excuse to not be.  We’ll do the thoughtful things we’re too embarrassed to do otherwise, and let the universal nature of the holiday help us find connections with those we might otherwise fear.

And let’s allow the “Christmas season” to remain a good excuse throughout the year.

 
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