Saturday, December 1, 2012
Why Celebrate Christmas?
Who, Scrooge or worshipper alike, doesn’t bristle at the commercialization of Christmas? It is so easy and so common to want to chuck it all out the window and into the trash. On reflection, however, doesn’t that simply put the nail in the Christmas spirit’s coffin? Why invest in materialism by essentially agreeing that there’s nothing sacred about Christmas?
Instead, why not search for how to express that spirit in ways that are authentic to you? And, given the familial and communal nature of that spirit, why not share your celebration with others of like-mind?
It feels slightly silly to attempt to define the Christmas spirit, but our world is closing in on us and in America and in so many countries our lives at home, at work and in the shops and marts are shared with people of other faiths or of no faith. Not only therefore might Christians stop to consider what Christmas is all about but how can everyone find inspiration from its universal message.?
I suppose I ought to ask whether it has a universal message? Is the birth of Jesus Christ an event only of interest to Christians? Generally speaking, Christian teachings hold that Jesus Christ is the world’s only savior and belief in the redemptive power of his death on the cross and the glory of his resurrection thereafter are the hallmarks of Christian faith. But this blog article will end up being a book if I head off in earnest in that direction. So, instead, let me say that …
As a yogi and a follower of the teachings of India (especially as brought to the West in modern times by Paramhansa Yogananda), I am not alone in espousing the view that saints and saviors have come to this earth down through the ages in all faith traditions and that the greatest of these are all “sons of God” as was Jesus Christ. They come to remind us that we, too, are that, and that our lives in human bodies are given us that we too might become Self-realized in God as are the masters in every religion.
There is, however, another aspect of universality that millions recognize, even setting aside the specifics of the meaning of Jesus Christ’s incarnation on earth. The Christmas spirit is one of giving and sharing. Christmas is a celebration of the Golden Rule of life and of the kinship of life that all nations, races, people, and faiths share. That surely is worth affirming in this world of troubles, is it not?
Though I can’t give specifics, perhaps you, too, have seen movies or read stories of how during World War I and/or II, soldiers stopped fighting on Christmas Day and shared in some way across their battle lines. How many children stories exist with tales of how the humblest child or animal had a gift to offer the baby Jesus? In that little form we pay homage to the life we all share, for in that light we are One and we are children of our one, Father-Mother God.
Even atheists and agnostics can celebrate the humanity and harmony exemplified in the Golden Rule.
Candlelight symbolizes, inter alia, that at the darkest hour of life (winter solstice of the northern hemisphere) there remains this light of eternal life, like the seed buried and unseen in the winter ground but which bursts forth in the Spring. In celebrating light in its many forms (colored Christmas lights, candles and so on) we share a universal symbol of hope that the sunlight of vitality and healing will once again rise.
The spiritual interpretations of this light, of which Jesus was a human representative, include the teaching that this light is the light of the soul, as a reflection of the Infinite Light of God. This Light exists eternally behind the darkness of ignorance and materialism, and at the still center of all matter. This eternal Light is the promise of our immortality which has its Being in our souls, not in our physical bodies.
Let us therefore celebrate this Light which “shines in the darkness, though the darkness comprehended it not.” Let us celebrate our kinship with each other, with all creatures, and with all life. Let us affirm that we are children of the Infinite Light and that all distinctions of race, nation or faith are but constructs of the limits of the human intellect and but constrictions upon the natural love of the heart. “Hear O Israel, the Lord, the Lord our God, is ONE!
One week from today at the Ananda Meditation Temple in Bothell, Nayaswami Jamuna Snitkin presents a 3-hour workshop on this subject, “Why Celebrate Christmas.” Saturday, December 8, 9:30 a.m. http://www.anandawashington.org/classes/art-of-living-classes/
Look forward, too, to a series of blog articles inspired by the faiths of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Self-realization on the universal theme and celebration of Light.