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A Spiritual Autobiography
How God fulfilled the faith-based hopes
of an ordinary guy from Jersey City
The Relationship Between Religious and Secular Holidays
During my childhood school days in PS 33, PS 24, and Lincoln High School in Jersey City, November was our favorite month. That’s was because we got a good number of days off from school in November. There was Election Day (they used the schools as voting sites), Armistice Day (today known as Veteran’s Day), some additional days while all the teachers were away at their annual Teacher’s Convention in Atlantic City, and finally Thanksgiving weekend .
Today these and other special days still matter to me. Not because I need days off. I’m retired and I can can take off as many days as I like, anytime. What’s different is that today I honor and celebrate these and other special days during every passing year because they have significance for me. I better understand what they are about. For example,This week I will join just about all Americans in celebrating Thanksgiving Day (November 27). Right after that, Christians, including myself, will celebrate the first day of the Advent season (30th). Earlier this month we celebrated All Saints Day (1st), Christ the King Sunday (23rd), and Veterans Day (11th). We also took time out to vote on Election Day (4th).
Some of these are religious dates and events and some are secular. A few years ago, as I was going through these days in November, I asked myself “Is there a relationship between these religious and secular dates and events?”. I concluded, and still believe, that there is a relationship, as follows:
Advent – This is a four week period of preparation for Christmas. It reminds me that Jesus came and will come again, not to condemn us, but to save us. I cannot use this time, as I did in my younger days, in making lists as to what I wanted Santa Claus, and my parents, to bring me for Christmas. Jesus himself is the greatest of all gifts and he is always available to me.
Christ the King Sunday – On this day I am reminded that Jesus is the ultimate ruler of the universe. The order which he intends to prevail, will ultimately prevail, in God’s time and God’s way. Therefore, in the midst of what seems to be hopelessness and bad news, there is always hope and good news.
All Saints Day – I am reminded that in the Protestant tradition, saints are not only highly moral and ethical people, who have performed miracles, but mostly ordinary people, doing their best to live as people of faith. And I am one of those ordinary people. As are you who are reading this.
Election Day – In democratic nations like the USA, it’s a day to cast our votes to determine who will lead our towns, counties, states, and the nation. As I make my decision about who to vote for, I do my best to listen to what each candidate has been saying he or she will try to do if elected. Then I compare what each candidate says he or she will do, and ask the who would Jesus vote for if he were physically in the voting booth.That’s who I would vote for. For me, Election Day is a secular day on which I apply religious principles.
Veterans Day – This is another secular holiday in the USA. Some say that because it is a secular holiday, the church has no business celebrating it. Especially since it’s purpose is to honor people who have served in military forces. But the military veterans who served in the armed forces of the USA were and are people created by God in a world created by God. So they are God’s concern. God cares about military veterans. Which means that they are the concern of church and its people. Some of whom, like myself, are military veterans.
Thanksgiving Day – This day was originally celebrated as and intended to be a religious holiday. Unfortunately, over the last few years, it has to a great extent become a secular holiday celebrated by getting the best bargains of the year at the shopping malls. Neverthless, I believe that most of us accept that it has at least some religious significance. For me, that means it is a time of recognition that every day is a day to thank God for something and everything, but most of us, including myself, fail to do this every day. So Thanksgiving Day is a time to thank God, not just for some special things God has done for me, but for all of the ordinary things I took for granted all year long, without thanking God. It’s a day to remember the special and ordinary ways God has shown love to me. It’s a day to ask God to forgive me for failing to thank him. It’s a day to reaffirm my faith in God as I move into the future, knowing that he has already forgiven me. And please remember that God has already forgiven you. Together, it is now time for all of us to thank God for showing his love for us, and to live as a thankful people.
Grace and peace, Ray
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
Patty Perez and Ray Gough