Have you ever wondered—had you been living at the time Jesus was born—if you would have been aware, like the shepherds and the Wise Men from the East, of the singular event that was taking place in the town of Bethlehem?
If you had gone to Bethlehem to be enrolled also, would you have noticed, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the crowd and in the urgency of your own needs, anything unusual happening?
Probably all of us have asked ourselves these questions, but whether or not we would have been conscious of the birth of the much expected Messiah at that time and place in history is not truly important. What is vital to us is that now we are awakening to the birth in consciousness of the Christ spirit in us, the God presence within every man, woman, and child, of which Jesus was the embodiment.
To observe the birth of Jesus at Christmastime from a purely impersonal and objective point of view is to miss the whole point of His birth and message. Let us, of course, "make a joyful noise to God" (Ps. 66:1) as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Savior and WayShower, and let us by all means keep the beloved trappings characteristic of Yuletide, but let us also see past them to behold all that Jesus' birth stands for, particularly in our own inner world of thought and feeling. Christmas is a season to be celebrated within if it is to be enduring and meaningful.
It is not just for a certain time of the year any more than love, peace, joy, and goodwill are for a certain time of the year.
What If You Don't Have the Spirit of Christmas?
Some people dread the coming of Christmas for they associate it with anxiety, stress, and last-minute preparations. One year, soon after the season was over, I overheard someone say with a sense of relief: "Thank God it's all over!" You probably have heard others say: "I just don't have the spirit of Christmas this year."
But how do we enter into the true mood of Christmas?
We have to divest ourselves of everything that tends to interfere with its true significance, and many times our own private feelings stand in the way. We must forsake the lesser—let go of our own personal challenges or those of our dear ones—no matter how demanding they seem to be at the moment.
As we do and lift our hearts to God in praise and thanksgiving, we shall abound in the rich rewards of a true Christmas celebration. Mary gave a splendid example of how to enter into the spirit of Christmas. Even before the baby Jesus was born, Mary was aware of her own delicate situation with her husband Joseph, and somehow she knew that everything would work out admirably in the end. Filled with faith, humility, and gratitude, she declared: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior . . . . For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name" (Lk. 1:46-47, 49).
Regarding our own special needs at Christmastime or at any other time, we can adopt a similar attitude. Let us follow after Mary's disposition, courage, and understanding, for she really was the first one to truly celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Our festivity can last the entire year.
Not by using precisely the traditional elements of the season but by laying aside whatever may be disturbing us at the time and attuning ourselves to all that the Christ within represents.
Challenges will arise during the coming year. Shall we not meet them in the Christmas spirit? Optimism, love, and faith in the right outworking will prevail. Evoking the meaning of Christmas at any time of the year can be the ''good news of a great joy" (Lk. 2: 10) that we can always receive under any circumstance.
Just as the Wise Men from the East "rejoiced exceedingly with great joy" (Mt. 2: 10) upon finding Jesus, so we can find delight and fulfillment in the newborn Christ in us throughout the year.
Let us consider the divine idea of life, for the newborn Jesus symbolizes this idea. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn. 14:6), Jesus said to His disciples toward the end of His ministry on earth. Facing a healing need in ourselves or others, we indeed can celebrate the attribute of life within with the same jubilance as we celebrate the coming of the Christ life into our world and consciousness at Christmastime.
The gift of life is constant and changeless.
We can behold it in the newborn Jesus at Christmastime or in ourselves and loved ones at any other time of the year. Healing can always be brought forth as we celebrate life—the Christ life within—here and now.
Perhaps we feel vibrations of love, peace, and cheer during the holiday season more than at any other time of the year. People in general are more considerate, polite, and kind. Most people smile more readily; hurts and past offenses are forgotten. And this is as it should be, for after all, we are celebrating the birthday of the Prince of Peace.
We can now bring that same spirit of goodwill and understanding to our relations all year long. Why allow those feelings and attributes to grow cold as the new year unfolds? Let us remember them, revive them, and indelibly record them in our consciousness so that they can serve us well when our lines of communication with others are in need of repair.
When Yuletide is over and we are putting the decorations away, perhaps it may be helpful to leave one decoration out and placed where it can be seen. It will remind us of the deep significance of the season.
A card, a tree ornament, a figurine, a candle—any special memento close to our hearts—may very well bring to our remembrance that Jesus' birth is once more here within us with its glorious message of love, faith, and peace.
Yes, we can celebrate the advent of the Christ spirit any time of the year. Christmas is for all seasons, for it is a season of the heart!