Year after year I would dread the approach of the holiday season. The stress and chaos that accompanies this time of year always overwhelmed me and I began to see Christmas as a materialistic, wasteful, over-indulgent event that I did not want to take part in. Although I always respected that many people see Christmas as a time for connecting with family, or for getting into the spirit of giving, I always felt that there was much more to Christmas than that. This year rather than spend another Christmas over-eating and over-purchasing, I sought to meditate on the original significance of this time of year.
Having not come from a religious family, I never had a clue about Christianity or what Jesus was all about. It wasn’t until I started going deeper in Yoga that I understood the significance of Jesus and his coming to earth. This past Christmas I took part in a 10-day meditation retreat which gave me the opportunity to deepen this understanding.
Christ-Mass is a celebration of Christ. Christ comes from the Greek word “Christos” meaning “the anointed one”. Jesus is believed to be an Avatar – a direct incarnation of God. He took human form during a darker period in spiritual history, to restore the spirituality of the planet.
Although there are theories, the actual birth date of Jesus is unknown, so a symbolic day was chosen to celebrate his birth. We celebrate beginning on the evening of the 24th and continue until the 25th of December. This symbolic date is just past the winter solstice, when we have gone through the darkest days of the year and the days are becoming longer. The time of the winter solstice was celebrated long before Jesus came to earth as it marks the change of seasons, the end of the darkest days, the coming of light, and the renewal of life. Christ symbolizes the bringing of light during a dark period in our evolution.
Jesus brought a new religion based on love and the vision of a God who is full of compassion and forgiveness. This allowed many to transcend the religion brought by Moses, which was based more on applying to the rules out of a fear of punishment from the divine. In yogic terms, Jesus raised the consciousness of the people from a level of manipura chakra (the source of pride and ego) to the level of anahata chakra (the source of love, compassion, and humility). In spiritual evolution, the most difficult step is to transcend from the mentality of manipura chakra to anahata chakra.
Jesus was the first figure in spirituality to demonstrate sacrifice. With this, he brought the idea that karma can be shared, that we can make sacrifices for the benefit of others. We celebrate Christmas to recognize the love of a God who incarnated to save humanity.
Christmas is a time for us to reflect on the lessons from Jesus and bring them into our consciousness for the benefit of our spiritual evolution and the benefit of others. Jesus taught simplicity. He did not fill the world with mental clutter, rather, he showed how to be fully in the heart, open, and purely present. His teaching was simple, yet powerful. He is the best example of humility, showing us how to transcend pride and vanity; to take our consciousness to the heart by cultivating selflessness, compassion, forgiveness, and love.
It is inspirational as we pass through the holiday season to reflect on the symbols of Christmas. The evergreen tree we decorate each year represents eternal life, reminding us of our immortal soul, as demonstrated by Jesus. The Christmas star reminds us to have hope, as it represents the promise fulfilled of a savior sent to earth. The color red, most often used in Christmas decorations, reminds us of the blood shed during Christs crucifixion as a sacrifice for the benefit of all. The candles we light at this time symbolize the light of Christ which dispelled the darkness of that time. And the wreath, a shape without beginning or end, represents the continuous flow of love.
With the celebration of the birth of Christ each year, the Christ consciousness within each of us is reborn. This is a good time to meditate and work on your awareness, make decisions, forgive, practice selflessness, and remember to love.
I can feel how my attitude toward Christmas has changed, and I know that next year as the season approaches, there will be no more feelings of dread, but only hope and remembrance of the true essence of Christmas.
Details on the transformational meditation retreat I took part in can be found at agamayoga.com.