The Meaning of Christmas

It is certainly not about the commercialization of the holiday, or Santa.

He arose in the morning groggy and disoriented. He didn’t know where he was or recognized the surroundings. It was a small room, very neat and clean, with a sofa, desk, and big bed. Anyone would recognize it as a hotel with all of the amenities. He had no memory of how he had gotten there. Sunlight peeked between the curtains. The television was playing a Christmas gala, complete with classic holiday music. The entertainment was broken up by the occasional commercial where announcers were promoting everything from toys to clothes, jewels, and automobiles. Each announcer admonished viewers to hurry as there was just one day until Christmas.

“Christmas? Where am I, where have I been?”

He slowly stood up and went over to the window and opened the curtains to look outside where the grass and roads were covered with a thin layer of snow. It was cold, but not frigid. People could be seen walking on the streets carrying packages, cars moved quickly along a boulevard, and pine trees were adorned with tinsel, bulbs and lights. He didn’t recognize any of it which confused matters further.

He washed himself in the bathroom and then spotted some clothes neatly folded on the sofa, complete with shoes and socks. The clothes fit remarkably well. The shoes, which were actually a set of leather and rubber boots, also fit comfortably. He combed his hair before putting on the jacket and wool cap hanging on the chair at the desk. He unlocked the door and stepped outside into the cold air and surveyed the area around the hotel. Nothing looked familiar; did Europe look like this?

A woman dressed in a heavy black coat passed by him and greeted him good morning.

It was English, but the accent wasn’t recognizable. He replied, “Good morning,” to the woman who hurried away before any other questions could be asked.

He watched her hurry down the street heading towards a large building where several cars were already parked. A sign in front read, “Springdale Town Mall.” He was curious and thought people at the building might hold some answers. So He followed the woman to the mall, crossing the street carefully as it was busy with vehicles. The traffic lights seemed strange to Him, as well as the lines on the street, along with the the commotion of the cars and their horns. As He approached the entrance to the mall, He could hear the sounds of Christmas music coming from the mall’s PA system in the parking lot. In between songs, announcers touted their products and admonished shoppers there was just one more day until Christmas. He really didn’t grasp what was going on.

He entered the mall which was the largest structure He had ever seen. Inside was a cavernous multitude of lights, more music, and thousands of people circulating. There seemed to be hundreds of shops offering a variety of wares; toys, cutlery, sporting goods, jewelry, and many other goods. Virtually all had signs in their windows promoting sales and reminding shoppers there was now less than a day to Christmas. He paused by an electronic store where many television sets were displaying Christmas shows. The shows were mesmerizing and He became somewhat intoxicated by the sights and sounds emanating from the televisions.

He wandered the mall examining the various stores carefully. Each was decorated in red and green colors, with wreaths, and the smell of pine and sweet candy hung in the air. Electric lights, snowmen, and miniature railroads offered animation. Gifts were wrapped in a special type of green and red paper and ribbons. All in all, it was a feeding frenzy of shopping. He wondered what the purpose of all this activity. There were several signs mentioning “Christmas,” but He didn’t make the connection.

There was the smell of food in the air which caused His stomach to growl in hunger. He passed the mall’s Food Court which featured several restaurants offering a variety of strange looking ethnic foods. He watched cooks prepare Japanese sushi and Chinese cuisine, none of which He recognized as something edible. The Mexican restaurant smelled of spicy hot peppers. The only restaurants which somehow resembled familiar food was the Italian restaurant, although He balked at pizza, and the Greek restaurant featuring gyros and souvlakis, both offered on pita bread.

He asked the clerk for a gyro as it appeared to be made of lamb. The young clerk prepared the meal accordingly, complete with French Fries and a cola drink.

“That will be $5 for the gyro special,” she said.

He looked perplexed by her request but quickly figured she was asking for money of which He had none. He tapped his trousers with his hand and heard the distinct click of metal. He reached inside his pocket where He retrieved some coins valued at $2 each. “Will you take these?” He asked.

The clerk took three of them and presented him with a $1 bill saying, “Here is your change. Thank you. Next!…”

He walked away from the restaurant with his tray and found an empty table to sit and eat. He studied the $1 bill carefully. He had never seen paper money before and didn’t recognize Washington’s portrait. He ate the gyro hungrily. He enjoyed the taste of cooked lamb as well as the pita bread. The French Fries seemed peculiar to him though. He picked one up and inspected it carefully. Nearby at other tables, people were eating them. He then broke one in half and tasted it, and it was good, even though He didn’t know what it was. “A French Fry? Hmm…,” and He ate the rest. He examined the cola drink suspiciously. He took a sip and found the taste medicinal in nature, and the bubbles tickled His nose. Spotting a nearby water fountain, He emptied the cola down its drain and replaced it with water which tasted remarkably clean to Him.

He saw others dumping the trash from their trays into the garbage and followed suit. The meal had served its purpose and He felt refreshed. He then returned to wandering around the mall. The music and hubbub was beginning to give Him a small headache.

It was mid afternoon when He came to the center of the mall where He sat at a bench on the second floor. He marveled at the immensity of the mall and as He looked down to the bottom floor He discovered a long line of children waiting for someone named “Santa Claus.” Dozens of children waited patiently to sit with a fat man dressed in a red and white costume. He assumed the man was elderly as he wore a white beard with matching color hair.

An elderly woman came and sat on the bench to rest her feet. She was loaded with several packages and looked tired from her trek around the mall.

“Excuse me, but who is that man down there?” He innocently asked the woman.

She looked down to see the object of His attention.

“Are you kidding me?” she said, “It’s Santa Claus and his elves talking to the kids of course.”

He said, “I’m sorry, I am not from around here. What is a Santa Claus?”

She looked at him inquisitively but gave him the benefit of doubt. “He is actually called by many names, St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle, and many others around the world. He is considered the patron saint of Christmas and is best known for delivering presents to children on Christmas.”

“Christmas, there is that name again,” He thought.

He watched the children one-by-one visit with the old gentleman. Some appeared timid and scared, others enjoyed a good conversation with the man, others were loud and animated, demanding certain presents on Christmas Day. It was all rather unclear as to the purpose of the meeting with Santa other than it was an outlet to promote the purchase of more gifts. He was amazed by the length of the never-ending line and requests for more gifts.

The greed and opulence of the season was too much for him to stomach any longer. He took his leave of the mall wanting to head back to the safety of the hotel room. Unfortunately, He became a bit disoriented and couldn’t find the same door from which He entered, and exited on the opposite end of the mall where nothing looked familiar.

He had spent considerable time at the mall and it was now late afternoon with long shadows and the sun beginning to set. All He could see were rows of neat wooden homes adjacent to the mall. He was unfamiliar with the architecture and wanted to take a closer look. He entered a subdivision and was amazed how orderly the houses were aligned and well maintained.

As the sun set, decorative lights were switched on and lit up the houses and the adjacent trees and shrubbery. Various statues of snowmen, Santa Claus, and angels were also lit and music could be heard in the air. There also seemed to be reindeer everywhere; on top of houses, pulling sleighs, or metallic statues on front lawns, some were animated appearing to be grazing. In was very reminiscent of the storefronts in the mall.

He walked several blocks in amazement as the houses turned darkness into light. Other people also walked the neighborhood in order to see the decorations. Cars began to enter the streets where they moved slowly so parents and children could admire the decorations. As pleasant as this all ways, He was at a loss as to what it all meant.

As He exited the neighborhood, He was presented with two large structures, one with a crucifix atop it, and another with the Star of David. He was appalled by the crucifix and began to wonder if people still practiced the tortuous custom. The large cross stopped Him in his tracks and He began to tremble. He noticed the other structure bore the Shield of David, a symbol He was familiar with through Judaism.

It was nighttime now and both buildings were active with people, the Temple celebrating a Bar Mitzvah, and the Church preparing to celebrate Christmas mass. Being more familiar with the Shield of David, He approached the Temple, where people were exiting for the evening. Still inside was the rabbi who was bidding goodnight to the attendees. He worked his way to the rabbi, a middle aged man who appeared to be of good nature.

He said, “Rabbi, I am a stranger to this area. As I have walked around the village I notice there is a fascination with ‘Christmas’ here. I would like to know more.”

The Rabbi smiled and said, “Well stranger, you are actually in a good place to learn. I would like to sit down and tell you more, but the hour is late and I have another appointment. However, I recommend you visit the church next door where they are getting ready to celebrate Christmas. I am confident they will tell you the full story tonight.”

He took his leave of the rabbi, who locked the Temple after He exited. Many people were entering the house of the crucifix, men, women and children. As it appeared to be safe, He overcame his timidity and reluctantly approached the church. At the door, He was warmly welcomed by greeters. The inside appeared to be a place for religious retreats, with several rows of pews, and an altar at the front.

As the service began, the congregation rose to its feet and began to sing, accompanied by an organ. He was startled by this, but found the music strangely comforting. He looked about and saw everyone singing in unison, along with a choir which sang as one. The pomp and circumstance was impressive. He looked on in horror as a small boy walked slowly down the center aisle carrying another crucifix with an effigy of a person nailed to it. The boy proudly presented the cross at the front of the congregation before placing it in a stand. He was bewildered by the display and was prepared to turn and run, but something inside him told him to stand his ground. After the entrance of the clergy, the music stopped and everyone returned to their seats.

The minister welcomed everyone to the evening’s Christmas celebration. This was followed by a sweet celebration enacted by the children of the church who were dressed in colorful costumes. The minister narrated the story of the birth of Christ and the children acted out the story. He listened intently. He heard the names of Joseph and Mary, which were well known to him, as well as a place called Galilee. He listened to their story of the birth of their savior. Aside from the shiny costumes and some obvious literary liberties, it was a story He knew well, and his spirits perked up noticeably. He was no longer afraid but felt quite at home.

After the play, the minister asked all first time visitors to rise and be recognized. One-by-one he welcomed each visitor, asking who they were and where they were from. The minister finally asked the stranger to introduce himself.

“I am known as Jesus of Nazareth,” He said.

The minister thought He was mocking the congregation and quickly confronted the stranger. Anger was in the minister’s eyes but before he could utter a harsh word, He said, “I am a stranger to this area,” and raised his hand in peace to shake the minister’s.

It was only then the minister saw the scars from the crucifixion. There was something in the stranger’s demeanor and eyes that made him realize he was now in the presence of something special. The minister froze until He placed his hands on him in comfort. The minister smiled and knelt to his knees. The congregation didn’t quite comprehend the situation, but followed the minister’s lead and knelt.

He said, “Please rise, you are all my children. I’m not sure why I was sent here but I believe it has something to do with the meaning of Christmas, something I didn’t quite understand until I witnessed your pageant.”

“Yes, this is your birthday, your eminence,” the minister replied.

“I have been among you this day and have witnessed many things, most of which I do not understand, particularly the greed of this day. I hope they are not using this day to celebrate such a weakness.”

The minister was embarrassed, “I am afraid a lot of people have forgotten its purpose. It is not about shopping, it’s about You.”

“In my time, we celebrated birthdays by the breaking of the bread. We didn’t have opulent presents. Instead, we offered our love, fellowship, and trust to others. If this is truly my Birthday, let us celebrate likewise,” and loafs of bread appeared in His hands.

Jesus moved to the altar and broke the bread into small pieces for everyone to consume. The minister assisted by pouring wine.

“Here, eat and drink. Do this for the remembrance of Me. My message is simple: I love you unconditionally. You may not believe in me, but have confidence that I love you. Do not dwell in hate. Practice love and do unto others as you would have others do unto you. It’s really not that difficult, is it?”

As the last morsel of bread was consumed and wine drunk, He turned and disappeared into the ether with the exclamation, “Remember!”

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

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Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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Why saying Happy Holidays is ok.

The U.S. Constitution says in the first amendment that

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

The enactment of this prohibition prevented the Federal government from establishing a national church or religion or to excessively involve itself in religion in general but particularly to the benefit of one religion over another.

The outcome of this prohibition in the 200 plus years since its signing is today a pantheon of religious practice across America and a change in the national practice of faith.  In effect, the establishment of religious freedom has allowed for a unique form of national religion to emerge with its own set of practices, rituals, and traditions.  It is in effect, an American religion, established in the vacuum of any other religious tradition.

So as to make the point, every year 25 million Christmas trees are sold in the United States, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.  Each one of these 30 million trees are placed prominently in the home, business, or Public Square, and then decorated with elaborate representations of riches and finery so as to make this mundane tree of wood and leaf become something of a dramatic representation of splendor.  Once decorated, many place equally stunning packages of varying size and decoration beneath it.  And lastly, to punctuate the bedazzled tree and packages, many households hold elaborate parties within which many a carol is sung in its presence and special libations of holiday beverages (Eggnog anyone?)  poured in commemoration of the trees decoration.

pop culture nativity, Crèche, nativity scene

Dog Nativity Scene Even Jesus Would Love! from

Amidst the special tree are a few ancillary affects which include a mysterious pot bellied man in a red suit who spreads cheer and mirth through magical gift giving, to whom many a child is taught to set out offerings of milk and cookies.  And, under many of those trees is a small decorative Crèche, often remade with the pop culture cons of the day in representation of its historical significance.

Amazingly, nowhere is this ritual practice and performance written down or made sacred through any writing or sacred tradition.

Rather, its ideas are passed to the public through the things we buy such as the soft drink Coke, or its harder cousin Budweiser which annually make images of how to celebrate the holiday with their products.  Or, in even more rabid devices created to influence your decisions in making purchases of gifts quelling your need to buy and collect for yourself and appealing to your need to appease the wants of those you love.

No, this American Religious tradition is unique and one within which art imitates life which is imitating art.  Not many of us pull the candy canes and twinkle lights out in October, yet stores slowly begin to remind us of the coming tree adulating season.

Mind you, they’re not saying here comes the Christ’s Mass, their saying here comes Christmas, here come the holidays, or just simply Happy Holidays.

In case you didn’t make the connection, every December 25th, we celebrate Christmas which, as religious traditions go, is the birth of the Christian Christ Jesus.  Yet, in the increasingly secular and religiously diverse America, we’ve kept the name of christmas (note the lowercase c) and created our own national religious holiday season.

But, this American Religion isn’t alone in its incorporation of the holiday and, in case you missed them, other religious holidays happen in December which only help to lend themselves to the greater notion of a Holiday Season so as to recognize everyone’s faith.

Islam celebrated Ashura on the 5th.  Ashura is the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar marking the climax of the Remembrance of Muharram.  It is a Shi’a Muslim day of mourning for the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala on 10 Muharram in the year 61 AH (680 A.D.)

Buddhism, the much admired Eastern tradition, had Bodhi Day on the 8th which is celebrated as the day that the historical Buddha experience enlightenment.

Catholic Christians Celebrate several special days along with the Christian Mass including Saint Nicholas Day on the 6th.  Saint Nick is perhaps the origin of the idea of Santa Clause as he is commonly called Nikolaos the Wonderworker for his secret gift giving.  Also in December is The Immaculate Conception day on the 8th which celebrates belief in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And the Feast Day for the Virgin of Guadalupe on the 12th which is to commemorate the vision on the Tepeyac hill by the recently converted Aztec Indian, Juan Diego, of the Nahuatl Virgin Mary.

Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, is celebrated from the 21st through the 28th in remembrance of the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt.

Pagan/Wiccan communities celebrate the Solstice with a Yule celebration on the 22nd.  Yule is most likely the Germanic source for much of our winter arboreal adulation as it is a winter holiday consisting of feasting and celebration at the changing of the solstice.  Today, the burning of a Yule log is a common theme which harkens back to this tradition.

On the 26th, Zoroastrian’s celebrate Zarathosht Diso, the death of Prophet Zarathushtra.  The celebration of this holiday, held annually on December 26th is often a private and personal one held within homes and temples without an external manifestation.

Not to forget in Masonic tradition, St. John the Evangelist’s feast day on December 27th, most commonly celebrated on or near the solstice and a day to reconnect with your Masonic brothers after having been away.  Often, if celebrated, it is with a Festive Board or Table Lodge.

And, one of my personal favorites is the remembrance of Saturnalia, the Roman era festival held in celebration in honor of the god Saturn, the father of the god Jupiter.  In ancient times, this feast took place from December 17 through the 23rd and is thought to of begun around 217 B.C.E.  Ironically (or perhaps not) the holiday consisted of celebrations, gift giving, and visiting of friends.  The customary greeting for the holiday was “Io, Saturnalia!” Io pronounced “e-o”) which is a Latin interjection such as “ho” as in “Ho, praise to Saturn.”

With so many holidays and celebrations going on in December, it’s ok to step back and look at the months many celebrations and say Happy Holidays without stepping on your religious toes or secular admonishment of religion.  Because Congress shall “make no law respecting an establishment of religion” its up to us to celebrate however we want – be it as one of the 30 million christmas tree buyers or as Buddhist celebrating the day of enlightenment.  In either case, it make no difference, by the fact of our communal celebration we together are creating an American Religious Holiday.

The Value of Myth

If it doesn’t relate, then don’t celebrate.

Io Saturnalia, Good Yule, Cheery Solstice, Happy Holidays, Happy Ashura, Enlightened Bodhi Day, Good Boxing Day, Joyful Kwanzaa, Merry Christmas.

What ever your myth or belief, be it a joyful and happy season of celebration. Speaking of myth, have you heard about the dueling atheist and Catholic billboards that adorn the opposite ends of the Lincoln Tunnel in New York?

Erected by the Atheist Americans and The Catholic League respectively, two dueling factions – those who believe and those who don’t, have been dukeing it out over the souls of New York residents or at least dukeing out the idea of myth.

The fight is over the reality of the birth of Christ, or in a more general sense, the truth behind Christian theology itself. Erected by the American Atheists – the sign reads You KNOW it’s a Myth. This Season, Celebrate REASON!

If the sign isn’t a simple enough statement their reason for erecting it can be found on their website which says:

Statistics show that nearly 50 million Americans are atheists. Some use names like freethinker, agnostic or humanist to describe or modify their position, but atheism (the absence of a belief in a deity) is broad, and encompasses all those terms. If you don’t have an active belief in a god, you’re an atheist. It’s a very good thing.

Millions of atheists are closeted, choosing to go along to get along, and feigning religion to their friends, family, and coworkers. American Atheists understands the pressure to fit in, but we maintain that for people to love you, they must know the real you.

An interesting inclusion in this list is the Humanists, which is where much of Freemasonry can trace its ideals back to – especially in the equality of man, the democracy of the lodge, and the more esoteric ideas.

Leon Zeldis, in a paper ENGLAND AROUND 1717 – The foundation of the first Grand Lodge in context, published at Pietre-Stones, says:

The Masonic lodge was a refuge of peace and tranquility at a time of political uncertainty, when the memory of religious warfare was fresh in the memory of all men, when the first discoveries and inventions were transforming the economy, and opening new perspectives of progress, when the hope that rationality and humanism would banish from the hearts of men the evils of fanaticism and intolerance. This was the fertile ground on which early speculative Freemasonry germinated and grew, spreading its branches throughout the western world.

This is not to say that the Humanism of the late Renaissance was the same as today, but its difficult to say that they are much different. Their similarity was in the study of Scholasticism which focused on the preparation of men to be doctors, lawyers or professional theologians, and was taught from approved textbooks in logic, natural philosophy, medicine, law and theology. Perhaps, even, in the study of Reason itself.

At the time of the Renaissance, it was a lesson for churchmen and Popes to study these new ideas which, even at that time led to the challenging of old beliefs.

Back in modern day, the Catholic League erected their own sign in response that reads:

You Know It’s Real: This Season Celebrate Jesus.

Originally, the competing sign was erected as a rebuttal or response to the Atheists sign, but with a more specific argument, truly the reason to celebrate Christmas, the Christ’s Mass to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Some onlookers, quoted in the New York Post commented that the rebuttal was unnecessary, that its a “it’s tit for tat, [which] defeats the spirit of Christmas”

Perhaps which side of the fence you come down on about the signs depends on your own personal beliefs, which are a very hard things to argue against. What stuck me about it was the need that we each have for Myth, whether its the season or reason.

Its an obvious omission to any who have read the Christmas story that fresh mountain pine trees and sparkly glass ornaments were absent in the telling of the nativity. Gifts of frankincense, myrrh, and gold were present, but they are a far cry away from the modern day giving of an iPad, an LCD HD TV, or a brand new and Bow-Tied Lexus.

So obviously the holiday didn’t originally celebrate in the manner we do today.  The first use of the Cristes mæsse (Christ Mass) wasn’t recorded until 1038, a thousand years after the birth of Christ – well before the giving of the latest Call of Duty Black Ops game.

So there must be some other reason for our focus of celebration, most likely our celebration of the myth.

Joseph Campbell, in his book The Power of Myth, says:

“The individual has to find an aspect of myth that relates to his own life. Myth basically serves four functions.

1. The Mystical Function – The wonder of the universe, the wonder of the self, and the awe before the mystery.

2. Cosmological Dimension – the dimension of science showing the shape of the universe but in a way that the mystery shines through

3. Sociological – The supporting and validating of a social order.

4. Pedagogical Function – how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances.

So, even if it challenges the reason of some, the need and value of Myth is every bit important as it is to question them and ask yourself how they relate to your own sensibilities.

Campbell goes on to say:

“The story that we have in the West, so far as it is basedon the Bible, is based on a view of the universe that belongs to the first millennium B.C.  It does not accord withour concept either of the universe or of the dignity of man.  It belongs entirely somewhere else.”

This seems to be where the American Atheists are leaning, but get lost in the weeds of just disconting everything that fails their dogma test (missing the dogmatic-ness of their own proposition)

Campbell goes on to offer his idea of multicultural acceptance describing its Humanistic leaning as being “trans-theological.”  saying further “it is of an undefinable, inconceivable mystery, thought of as a power, that is the source and end and supporting ground of all life and being.”  Said another way, the myth transcends the source and takes on a more significant role.

This strikes me as the difference between Faith and Religion, the practice should follow the belief, not the other way around. We often celebrate a holiday or event without knowing its precise origin or purpose. What matters is how it relates to us today, what it means to us in the now.

If it dosen’t relate, then don’t celebrate.

If the myth of the event does not excite the mystical in you, then celebrate the mundane.

If your not of a religious bend, then pick another reason to celebrate the season. And, if that’s not good enough, then don’t try to wreck it, or shape it, for others.

This is where I believe the American Atheist’s  sign misses the mark.

Rather than condemn the beliefs of others – why not appeal to the 50 million atheists they claim affinity with to provide them an alternative to what they see as unreasonable celebration of Myth with their own unique celebration of Reason.

Happy Holidays – what ever your degree of leaning in your traditions.

brotherly love, union, chain, fraternal ties

Brotherly Love

brotherly love, union, chain, fraternal tiesWe have heard over and over that Freemasonry is a Brotherhood. That it is a fraternity. We use the term Masonic Family when referring to the group of organizations associated with Masonry. But it often seems that we use these terms out of habit, without any sense of meaning behind the words that are coming out of our mouths.

I can think of countless lodge meetings that I have attended where we recognize men as Brother Smith or Worshipful Brother Jones. We use the term Brother so often that we become desensitized to its meaning. Soon the word ‘Brother’ becomes little more than a substitute for ‘Mister’ or ‘Sir.’ Perhaps this is a failing of our institution’s protocol or perhaps it is our own fault for overusing this word. But in the spirit of the Christmas season, I’d like to talk a little bit about what the word ‘Brother’ means to me.

A Brother is your next of kin. He is more than a friend, he is your own flesh and blood. A man for which you would lay down your life. In the Masonic lodge, the term refers to the men of that mystic tie, that solemn obligation which we have all taken. This obligation is more than just a formality or organizational oath. The obligation is a pledge to be true to God, to yourself, and to your neighbor. The obligation is our promise to live and act virtuously and to love our fellow man. When we assume this obligation, we are declaring that we wish to be in the company of men who share the same values and ideals. By uniting ourselves with this honorable pledge, we become Brothers of that ancient and honorable clan: the Freemasons.

Unfortunately, we find that throughout history that relationships between brothers have not always been worthy of emulation. Two of the greatest examples of this are found in the Old Testament. We read of Cain murdering Abel in Genesis and when God inquires about Abel’s whereabouts, Cain replies “Am I my Brother’s keeper?” We learn that Jacob was willing to trick his father Isaac in order to obtain Esau’s blessing. We need not look far to see similar actions occurring today. Our Masonic lodges are full of Brothers who resent each other out of jealousy or are too proud to meet each another upon the level. We have arguments and feuds over lodge business and we often neglect our fellow Masons in need of relief.

During the Christmas holiday, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus who would grow up to become a leader that espoused the ideals of Brotherhood. Of all the lessons that Jesus taught, the most important is undoubtedly his new commandment: love one another. This is exactly what we as Freemasons and as Brothers should do. For if we love one another we will act by the square, we will circumscribe our desires, and we will give relief to our worthy Brother Masons. If we use the word ‘Brother’ not out of habit, but out of love, we will truly be a Masonic family. And by loving one another, we can understand the spirit of that solemn obligation.

One of the tenets of our profession is Brotherly Love and I propose that we all make this theme our focus for the new year. Let us make love a bigger part of the Masonic equation and let us focus on the meaning of being a Brotherhood.

My Brothers, love one another.

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Santa Claus sitting in a masonic lodge.

Christmas and Freemasonry

winter Solstice, holy Saints John, John the Evangelist

At its surface, the Christmas holiday has no intrinsic connection to the fraternity of Freemasonry. What I mean by that is no where in the degrees does it link itself to any particular holiday in its practice, in particular the Christmas holiday season.

Holy Saints John, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, sol invictus, winter solstice, Freemasonry, holiday
The Holy Saints John

There are, however, certain Christmas celebrations that have become a part of the fraternity which are linked to one of the interesting symbols that resides at the heart of the practice. Without any specific reference, Masons are said to come from a Lodge of the Holy Saints John, the specific why and how of this connection is lost in the sands of metaphorical time, but some connection infers a balance to the celestial equinox (from summer to winter and back again).

Through this link, winter is said to be represented by the Saint John the Evangelist, whose feast day falls on December 27th.

This Holy Saint John has an interesting symbolic significance, in that, as John the Baptist (who represents the other Holy Saint John) was the precursor to the coming Christ, John the Evangelist is said to be the first disciple at the Lake of Genesareth who recognized the Christ and believed that he had risen.


Of the Saint it is also said that he was the only disciple of Christ to not to forsake him in the hour of His Passion at the foot of the cross. John the Evangelist is also called the Apostle of Charity, which may be in part, his connection to Freemasonry in addition to his unwavering resolve and purity of his love of the divine.

In creating the original construct of the two Johns, the conclusion that I came to was that they struck a balance between zeal and knowledge.

The Baptist who was the precursor of the Christ living in his zeal for the coming son of God and the Evangelist as the representation of knowing that the Christ was the son of God. Only in piecing the component of knowing did it become clear to me that it was not about the degree of knowledge gained, but the degree to which the Evangelist trusted his intuition, to know what was before him.  An interesting parallel comes in the book of Matthew where this very lesson is communicated to Peter from the Christ who says in Matthew 16:15-17

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”

This is somewhat out of original context, but illustrative of revealed knowledge based on experience, on learning.

John the Evangelist came to that knowledge by his experience with the Christ.

Another way of looking at this experience is coming from darkness to light, an awakening, and if you take it further, the dawning of awareness. This awareness sits squarely with the idea of Sol Invictus, or the conquering sun which overcomes its captivity of night from the summer solstice and again begins to vanquish the night in its ever increasing minutes of daylight.


Looking at some of the other symbolic connections, the Evangelist is said to relate to the alchemical symbol of the up pointed triangle which represents fire, where again we can see a link to light and knowledge. When we combine the alchemical sign of the Baptist with that of the Evangelist, we create the star of solomon, and the duality of fire and water, further, the duality of light and dark and summer and winter.

Pope Adrian I

Further work attributed to John the Evangelist are the Epistles of John, and the book of Revelation, though his connection to them in later centuries has been contentious, as much of his life from 2000 years ago is lost to time.  Within the church his feast day is first mentioned in the Sacramentary of Pope Adrian I near 772 A.D.

The message of the church, and something each of us can take away from John the Evangelist is to “Apply thyself, therefore, to purity of heart, and thou shalt be like Saint John, a beloved disciple of Jesus, and shalt be filled with heavenly wisdom.”

The feast of the Evangelist is little remembered today, except within Masonry where it is celebrated by a few lodges that still practice the Table Lodge ritual where brothers gather together to celebrate it with toasts to those brothers present and absent.   in the past, it was considered a feast day of high importance for Freemasonry because of its proximity to the holidays and the presence of lodge members being close to home. Because of this, It gave those brothers a festival to meet under to punctuate the closing of the year. Meeting like this though is something less convenient in this modern day as most with families travels abroad to celebrate the holiday.

A Christmas Santa sitting in the worshipful masters chair of a Masonic lodge.

Because it is celebrated less does not diminish the importance of the day, nor the symbol itself, as in the modern ritual we are reminded that we come from the Holy Saint John’s in Jerusalem, and as such we should pause and reflect on just what that means. John the Evangelist gives us an important lesson to pursue knowledge and wake from the darkness and renew our commitment to the awakening light of the Victorious Sun.  Even taken out the Christian metaphor, we can salute with Sol Invictus, as knowledge is re-awakened from its cold wintry defeat.

Through the lens of symbolism, John the Evangelist gives us a means to find resonance with the holiday of giving and compassion to the fraternity of brotherly love, relief, and truth.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!