The lament surrounding the commercialization and the meaningless social, decorative and gaudy aspects of Christmas is well known and hardly worth noting. Whether sincere Christians or weary atheists, Christmas could use a strong dose of relevance and meaning these days.
Our problem is not only that it has been bowdlerized of its original spirituality, but taken as strictly a Christian holiday, it would appear to be irrelevant to most of the rest of the world.
Can both of these be changed?
A reverent study of the life of Jesus shows many endearing and inspiring qualities of his life: some divinely attributed and others humanistic. That Jesus was a great man in the best sense of the term is not, to my knowledge, ever been seriously challenged. Some skeptics may say he never lived but for someone who never lived he somehow managed to change the course of history. I think, therefore, we can strike that fantasy from our list of objections.
Have you ever simply sat down and read the four gospels of Jesus' life? Why not do a little reading each night of December and see what you come up with? You don't need to get down on your knees. Make a cup of comfort tea, sit in a comfortable chair or sofa, and read until you know it's time for bed. Put aside preconceptions, expectations, dogma and encounter the person of Jesus.
Another objection I would propose to cross off your list goes like this: why dispute that sectarianism, error, ignorance and suffering has been inflicted upon others in Jesus' name? That doesn't mean it was his fault! You can do with what you want with the miracles testified to in the New Testament, including his resurrection, but his compassion, openness, his humanity, his love for all, his tenderness, his courage........are these not the stuff of greatness? Can you not, also, see the potential in yourself for such?
"Other sheep I have that are not of this fold!" I think that includes you and I.
Perhaps you fear the overbearing image of Jesus as a person who, like Uncle Sam, WANTS YOU! Forget that image. Just tune into who he was....ok, maybe, IS. "IS" means NOW as you encounter him reading his life story. "IS" means in the feelings of your own heart. We of the rationalist culture imagine stories, to be true and relevant, must be factually true. Consider turning this on its head: the real stories are allegories of life. These are the true "stories" of you and me. Your heart knows what is true. Trust your own calm, receptive, and higher instincts, called "intuition."
In the gospel of John, one of his most famous sayings is "And as many as received Him to them gave He the power to become the sons of God." That is one of the most potent quotations of the entire New Testament. Consider what this really means. Yes, YOU! You are that, too. You are the Christ. All that is needed, simple but not easy, is to "receive" that Christ-hood in your own heart and find authentic ways to express it in thought, word and deed.
As you read, try to imagine yourself there: in the dusty hills of Palestine; in the crowded, noisy markets of its cities and especially of Jerusalem. Imagine the oppressive presence of the Roman occupiers; feel the arrogance and holier-than-thou attitude of the temple's priests and scribes; hear the call to action on the part of John the Baptist: the crazy man crying in the wilderness: repent! Can't you see him here, now? (No, not the televangelists! But someone deep, sincere, empathetic, sympathetic, and.....real!) Isn't that what this blog article is about: repenting, meaning reconsider our view of Christmas! Let's re-discover our true Self as sacred, reverent, and holy.)
Jesus was born a "king" but born in a manger. Like the prince who thought himself a pauper, we are that King, too, in our souls, at least. We cannot be made manifest, or born, except in the manger of natural humility and self-offering. It is only the ego with its pride and self-preoccupation that is asked to sacrifice itself on the cross of letting go that our consciousness might expand and know true joy. "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Is this not the Christmas spirit, also?
Why? Because in giving we expand our heart's sympathy and feel the joy of that expansion. This Christmas season, share your material wealth with others in need; do so anonymously if you can; give to the spiritual work of the universal Christ in this world that the light may expand.
We cannot afford NOT to celebrate Christmas. Paramhansa Yogananda established the tradition of a day of meditation just a few days before December 25. He said we should seek in meditation the formless Christ of peace within our own hearts. With the blessings of that occasion, we can then celebrate the social aspects of Christmas with true, Christ-joy.
At Ananda in Bothell, we conduct our Christmas meditation retreat on Saturday, December 17, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. We have chanting breaks throughout the day (contact us for the schedule) and a mid-day snack and comfort break. If you want to know who Jesus IS, come and seek Him in the Temple of Silence within.
In just a few days, this Saturday, December 10, 9:30 a.m., two of our teachers offer a class on "Jesus the Yogi Christ." Explore with us Yogananda's inspired revelation of the true nature, both divine and human, of Jesus Christ. Who were the three wise men? Where did Jesus disappear to for eighteen years?
A blessed Christmas to you,