December is my favorite month. Forget the lack of sunlight. The artificial lights are intoxicating, and I find great personal joy in making those end of the year charitable contributions, regardless of the tax implications. Out of the darkness emerges human goodness.

As a child, I spent every December until I was 23 working in my grandmother’s women’s and children’s clothing store. At that point, she sold the building and retired. Working there helped me to overcome the racism that was (and still is) ingrained in American society. It was also where I first experienced the spirit of Christmas, as African-American working men came in from the snow-covered sidewalks after finishing work on Christmas Eve. More than 40 years later, I still remember them looking at lingerie and dresses, imagining the smiles on the faces of their wives and children.

Theodore Parker, the great 19th century Unitarian minister, wrote that even if Jesus had never lived, the religious teachings contained in the Gospel stories were justification enough for Christianity.

Parker was right. When all the prayers have been uttered, the creeds recited, the paintings adored, the candles lit, and the presents opened, it is the teachings that have been attributed to Jesus that will endure. Who really cares whether Jesus was an eyewitness to the Big Bang, or came back from the dead? The resurrection is a wonderful story, but not as important as the moral teachings at the heart of his message. Heavenly real estate has no value if we inflict hell on earth upon other people to get there.

When you look at the manger, look at the faces of the homeless, and those who are overlooked because they can’t make large political contributions. Affirming Jesus means standing against the selfishness and me-first, me-only mentality that pervades our society. Affirming Jesus is a way of saying that we are better people than that. Let’s not worry about how Jesus did in math or physics. Instead, let’s be more concerned with the moral grade that he would give to the members of Congress who have given us our new tax law.

The Rev. Dr. Stan Sears

Ithaca

The Rev. Dr. Stan Sears is consulting minister at the Auburn Unitarian Universalist Society.

Outbrain