The family gathered on Christmas Eve. Those in their 30s talked of
vampires and zombies — the latest craze. No one mentioned the birth in
The conversation turned to encounters with spiders, ants and snakes. No one mentioned Jesus of Nazareth.
was quiet, numbed by the banter, the stories and the weight of my
years. With the Christmas tree glittering in the next room and the fire
crackling in the fireplace, I too did not think of the child in the
So we passed the evening disconnected from Christmas and
its meaning. As I pulled the covers up around me after everyone had gone
home, a restless unease settled on me. The discomfort was beyond
Christmas and banter about creepy insects and corpses that stalk the
streets. It was much bigger — about being, not about worrying or
Finally, I concluded I was much too tired to deal with
the enormity. I surrendered to a place beyond words, and there, in the
silence of the void, I sighed and fell asleep.
It was only on
this morning of Christmas Day that I began to connect the frivolity and
seeming meaninglessness of the night before with Jesus and his
teachings. Zombies and vampire are about transformation, even
resurrection, gone horribly wrong. The world of these creatures is one
without hope. Are the myths, which are so much in vogue, a warning? Are
they a wake-up call, just as the message of Jesus was? Can we be led to
love by zombies, vampires as well as by Jesus' teachings?
Are these stories, whether horrible or hopeful, ways of making us aware before it is too late?
Christian mythology, fabricated years after Jesus’ death, also sought
to direct and, yes, strike fear in our hearts. Vampires and zombies
emerged from societies aware of, even steeped in what Jesus taught and
what others mythologized about his life.
It seems odd yet worthwhile to ask: Was Jesus a kind of zombie with a difference when he reappeared after death?
I asked myself on this Christmas morning before we open the gifts, who
would we be without this searingly honest itinerant teacher who spread
his truth two thousand years ago?
Who would I be?
How is the world different today because of this birth in the manger? How is this very moment different because of Jesus?
Who is Jesus to us? Does he, like all others we encounter, become part of us, and how has that inward spirit changed us?
Quakers, of whom I am one, believe in such an “indwelling spirit,” the
Christ within. Would we hold such a belief, would we experience it,
without that birth in Bethlehem so long ago?