‘Twas the night before Christmas, 1946, and my extended family was gathered around a festive Christmas dinner table when my dad asked us to bow our heads for the traditional blessing. He began with “Thank you Lord for this bountiful meal, and your blessings.” He then continued with his standard blessing concluding with. “and Bless Grandma Ruth, Cousin John, Nephew Tony, and Little Jacob, who are in heaven looking down on our Christmas table. I tried to picture my brother Jacob, our most recent loss due to mom’s miscarriage, as he looked down on us from heaven, but could not.
Later that evening before I drifted off to sleep, I asked asked himself “What was I praying for? Mom cooked the meal with the help of Aunt Emily and Dad paid for the meal.“ We lost four family members, all within the last year. All, especially Jacob, were a terrible loss to us. Worst of all, my dear dad coughed his way through the blessing with the deadly disease that would end his traditional Christmas blessings for good.
The words “Thank you Lord” didn’t make sense to me, and although I continued to attend church for my Mom’s sake after dad’s death, those words stuck in my throat and were never uttered again.
As a teenager, I became aware I could no longer thank a deity who took loved ones from me; who sanctioned wars and inquisitions, and in his magnificent wisdom and power, allowed plagues and starvation to devastate innocent populations of prayerful worshipers. Even then in my youth, I thought it was shameful that all the religions made excuses for themselves and their gods. Their gods never took the responsibility when things went wrong but always took the credit when things went right. It didn’t take a genius to figure it out.
Now, sixty-five years later, my wife and I say a “blessing of sorts” at Thanksgiving and Christmas meals when we are the hosts. The blessing never mentions a deity. It always acknowledges those of our family who are no longer with us and those not as fortunate as we are. After we finish, some of our family might mumble “In Jesus’s name, Amen”. We don’t say a word about it. Let them worship as they wish if it makes them feel better.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to my readers.
* A fictional story