Call and Response: Journeys in UU Lifespan Faith Development

Thinking About the "Christ" in Christmas

By Susan Lawrence

Technically, Unitarian Universalism is not a Christian faith. As congregations and individuals, we are united not by creeds or rituals but by values and covenants. Although many view UUism's seven Principles as a manifesto of beliefs, they are actually a covenant with which we uphold our common values together.

illustration of nativity scene under glowing dark blue night sky, silhouettes of parents with baby, riders on camels, palm trees

We consider Jesus as one of history's great prophets, but not the only. (In our faith, each of us has the capacity to be prophetic.) We find wisdom in the words and actions attributed to Jesus, the man, but, most of us would not say we revere Jesus as more than human.

So, UUs are not necessarily Christians, though some are. Still more of us grew up in a Christian religion or have close relatives who are Christian. And all of us are surrounded by "cultural Christianity." Because of all this, and because our faith finds its roots in Protestant Christianity, it is natural for our communities and worship spaces to acknowledge the Christmas season. And so, each year at Christmastime, and again as Easter approaches, we are challenged to find our places in public celebrations, congregational traditions, or an extended family's homage to Christianity's central figure, Jesus. For some of us, this is hard.

Fortunately, we are also, each year, invited to seek personal meaning in the stories and hopes of Christianity. For me, my annual balk at this invitation provides regular opportunity for personal growth. Raised in a Jewish family, a minority in a mostly Catholic neighborhood, I was led at home to separate myself from Christians and, meanwhile, taught by my neighbors that I had "killed Jesus." Christmas, especially the church part, felt terrifying to me. As I grew older and my world bigger, my inherent universalism grew stronger than my fears. I had close relationships with people who were comfortable with, even excited about, aspects of Christmas. I found that I could let the holiday's beautiful music and candlelight rituals make me happy.

Every Christmastime, I make the journey to open-mindedness again. No lie, each year it takes some effort to set aside discomfort and allow myself to bask in the messages of love, compassion, and connection to our highest selves that Jesus's life and words can offer.

For me, it's been important to "confront" Jesus and it remains important for me to understand Christianity. My young adult niece, who lives with me, is Christian. So are some of my friends, their partners, their parents, and people important to me in my community. The neighbors with whom I work for justice on the local front include devout Christians--Orthodox, Evangelical, Episcopalian. And then there's our nation. Despite our increasing religious diversity, we still live with implicit Christianity and cannot ignore it.

Though you may be inclined to face the other way, consider coming eagerly into the season that celebrates the birth of Jesus. There is a UU-ish doorway for you.

Next Steps!

The UUA WorshipWeb gathers many different kinds of exploration of Christianity as a source for our Unitarian Universalist faith. Use the keyword search (e.g., "Christ") to browse for stories, meditations, and readings that resonate for you.

A 2016 Skinner House book, Christ for Unitarian Universalists by Scotty McLennan, offers a respectful, open lens to help us relate to and understand Christians and Christian beliefs. It is recommended for UUs exploring Christianity or identifying as Christian, as well as those whose families include Christian believers or who are engaged with Christians in interfaith justice work. Use the discussion guide from the UUA Faith Development Office to gather for a 60-minute conversation about Christ for UUs.

For children, the story, "Meet Jesus," in the Tapestry of Faith curriculum Love Will Guide Us is adapted from Meet Jesus: The Life and Lessons of a Beloved Teacher by Lynn Tuttle Gunney (Skinner House, 2007), available from inSpirit: The UU Book and Gift Shop. For more stories of Jesus through a UU lens, for children and adults, do a "text keyword" search of Tapestry of Faith.

The Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship uses the tagline, "freely following Jesus." On the UUCF website learn about UU Christianity and find opportunities to gather for study and worship.

About the Author

Susan Lawrence

Susan Dana Lawrence is managing editor for the Lifespan Faith Engagement office of the UUA. She is a writer and educator who has worked in broadcast television, corporate communications, and print journalism. She belongs to Reform Jewish and Unitarian Universalist faith communities.


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Christ for Unitarian Universalists

By Scotty McLennan

From Skinner House Books

An engaging and thoughtful inquiry into Christianity for Unitarian Universalists and other spiritual seekers. Helps to stimulate dialogue about Jesus Christ, whether or not we find him central to our faith life.

Buy This Book

Christian Voices in Unitarian Universalism

By Kathleen Rolenz

From Skinner House Books

Personal stories reveal what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist Christian today.

Buy This Book