We occasionally are asked, "Why is the picture of Jesus Christ on the altar and why are the teachings of the bible emphasized at Ananda?" We celebrate the birth, life and teachings of Jesus Christ because we are inspired by the explanation and insight given to us by our preceptor, Paramhansa Yogananda. Yogananda put it this way: the soul of Jesus is the same as yours and mine. Jesus was not different "in kind," but in the degree to which he had achieved Self-realization of his soul's true nature.
Yogananda called his life's work in the West "The Second Coming of Christ." This was not an ego-boast as it might be interpreted. Instead, Yogananda meant that he was sent from India to the West to "resurrect" the practice of meditation. This "coming" is what Yogananda called a "New Dispensation." The teaching of meditation (including and especially the advanced technique of Kriya Yoga) fulfills in objective human history the promise of Jesus to come again. Jesus' second coming, Yogananda taught, is not a human reincarnation, but in the formless presence of the universal Christ consciousness born in meditation: in the silent, still, humble manger of our hearts.
The "Christ" ("the anointed one") was fully Self-aware in Jesus but lives in all creation and in our hearts as our true Self. Elsewhere this aspect of God (in creation) might be called the Krishna Consciousness! It has been called by many names. "As many as received him, to them gave He the power to become the sons of God."(John 1:12).
That tender, heart-opening image of the tiny babe in the manger symbolizes and reminds us of the sweetness, innocence, peace, and unconditional love that lies quietly in our own hearts. It is the peace that all true hearts in creation seek. It is the kinship we feel (and wish more would feel) with all life in nature and in all races and nations. In a true metaphysical and spiritual sense, this consciousness is the salvation of humankind for, without it, we would destroy each other on the basis of our seemingly irreconcilable differences, fears, and competition. Daily meditation is the sure-fire way of life that can "resurrect" this universal divine consciousness that can gradually become our sole reality and self-identity. This state of Being is the true heaven we seek.
This is why we celebrate the birth of Jesus: not only out of gratitude for the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, but for the promise of hope for soul-awakening that this newborn child in the manger offers to us and to all the world. Christmas is for everyone.
We have for you a recording of a Christmas message from Swami Kriyananda from 1983: Here's the link to listen to it: http://www.anandawashington.org/christmas-message-sk-1983/
Blessings to you and your family this joyful season and beyond,
Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma