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Christ passes no one by. By this you know
He is God’s Son. You recognize His touch
In universal gentleness. His Love
Extends to everyone. His eyes behold
The Love of God in everything He sees.
No words but those His Father’s Voice dictates
Can reach His ears. His hands forever hold
His brothers’, and His arms remain outstretched
In holy welcome. Would you look on Him,
And hear Him call you this Christmas day?
Behold, He offers you His eyes to see,
His ears to listen to His Father’s Voice,
His hands to hold His brothers, and His arms
To reach to Him as He would reach to you.
You are as like to Him as He to God,
And you to God because you are like Him.
All that He offers you is but your own.
Accept His gifts to you this Christmas day,
That you who are as God created you,
May come to recognize the Christ in you.
(The Gifts of God, p. 95, by Helen Schucman)
Q: As a student of A Course in Miracles, I am finding the Christmas holiday season more and more difficult and depressing with each passing year. How do I reconcile the desire to want to take part in and be joyous and of good cheer during this time of the year which to me only seems to validate the special message and the meaning my ego has given to this season? It's like a tug of war: on the one hand wanting to make Jesus special for his “holy birth,” and on the other hand wanting to make me special for not wanting to take part in the holiday. I am trying not to judge the holiday but rather feel apathetic towards it. Can you help me see this differently?
A: As our understanding of the Course deepens, we begin to see the meaninglessness of the world’s values and beliefs, including those most “sacred,” such as Christmas. To the ego this is depressing, for the ego wants nothing more than to have “divine” validation. What greater proof that the world is real and we are in it, than to have God send His Son into the world to redeem it? Challenging this belief, therefore, is extremely threatening to the ego. The conflict you describe is very common, and is inevitable as long as meaning is sought in the meaningless. If the Christmas holiday celebration were not endowed with any “holy” significance (it has none), nor seen as any different from other simple pleasures one may enjoy in the world, there would be no need to respond to it any differently than an enjoyable day at the beach.
Engaging in the activities of the season is not the problem, and being apathetic to them is not the solution. It is the desire that the ego’s insanity be true, and that salvation be found in the multitude of substitutes made up specifically to exclude God and deny truth, that reinforces guilt and causes the conflict you describe. Learning this is a process, and Christmas is a perfect classroom in which to recognize the deep investment we have in defending our identity as bodies and proving we are right. Thinking we are bodies in the world, and that Christmas, among many other things, will make us happy, is what actually makes us deeply miserable. Our true hope lies in accepting that we do not know who we are, nor what will make us happy. We may then be willing to accept the Holy Spirit’s definition of Who we are as God’s one Son, and find happiness in knowing our true Identity.
In themselves, the gifts, lights, and symbols of Christmas made by the ego to glorify specialness are nothing. In fact, Jesus uses many of these same symbols in the Course to teach us the opposite of the ego’s message of separation and specialness. The mistake is believing they themselves have the power to make us truly happy or give us the peace we seek. It is this belief that causes the distress you describe. Hope for a peaceful holiday lies in the willingness to look at these illusory beliefs, without judging them as anything but illusory.
We give ourselves a true gift when we do what Jesus tells us: “This Christmas give the Holy Spirit everything that would hurt you” (T-15.XI.3:1). What hurts us is identifying with the ego thought system. “It’s the thought that counts” is a common refrain in reference to holiday gift giving. It applies aptly here since it is indeed our mistaken thoughts that are transformed when given to the Holy Spirit, thereby bringing us immense relief from the madness of the ego’s lies. It is thus possible to take part in the holiday celebration, seeing it as yet another classroom to learn the Holy Spirit’s lessons of forgiveness rather than to reinforce the ego’s specialness. In this spirit we can find peace this Christmas season, while participating in the celebrations in whatever way seems fitting.
Christmas is holy only if you come
In silence to the manger, to behold
Your holiness made visible to you.
Your gifts are but your open hands, made clean
Of grasping. Nothing else you lay before
The newly-born except your doubts and fears,
Your pale illusions and your sickly pride,
Your hidden venom and your little love,
Your meager treasures and unfaithfulness
To all the gifts that God has given you.
Here at the altar lay all this aside
To let the door to Heaven open wide
And hear the angels sing of peace on earth,
For Christmas is the time of your rebirth.
(The Gifts of God, p. 97, by Helen Schucman)
It is not always recognized that Christmas, the most celebrated of all Christian holidays, has its origins in much older traditions. What we now celebrate as the Christmas season began in antiquity as a solar festival centering on the winter solstice (December 22), commemorating the lengthening of the day and the triumph of the sun’s light over darkness. In the Zoroastrian religion of Persia, Mithras, son of the god of light Ahura-Mazda, was himself identified with the sun and light. Eventually, Zoroastrianism and Mithraism spread throughout the Roman Empire, and the end of December was celebrated as the birthday of Mithras and the defeat of darkness by the light, as each day slowly grew longer. This fit in well with the Roman feast of Saturnalia, December 17-25, which honored the god Saturn. The Roman celebrations, interestingly enough, included the exchange of gifts, family banquets, and holidays from work and school. At the dawn of the Christian era, and for more than three hundred years, these “pagan” observances continued; nevertheless, the early Christians celebrated Jesus’ birth on various dates. It was not until 354 A.D. that Pope Liberius ordered the faithful to honor December 25 as the official birth date of Jesus, conveniently dovetailing with the Mithraic and Saturnalian observances.
It is interesting to note that nowhere in A Course in Miracles does Jesus discuss any of the nativity references found in the gospels or in Christian tradition. In fact, he summarily dismisses the incarnation—the foundation stone of Christian theology—by stating:
The Bible says, “The Word (or thought) was made flesh.” Strictly speaking this is impossible. Thought cannot be made into flesh except by belief, since thought is not physical (T-8.VII.7:1).
Clearly, the Christian theological and liturgical emphasis on the special circumstances of Jesus’ birth—the Annunciation and the Virgin Birth—expressed most strikingly God’s direct intervention in human history by causing this event to occur. This seems to be a carry-over from Greek mythology where the gods and goddesses always intervened in human affairs, a situation impossible for the God of the Course, Who does not even know about the existence of the material world. Furthermore, we can say that the Annunciation and the Virgin Birth reflect a paradigm-myth to which we can no longer resonate, for they reinforce the “bitter idols” of specialness Jesus refers to in the manual (C-5.5:7). A Course in Miracles states unequivocably that Jesus “was a man [who] saw the face of Christ in all his brothers and remembered God” (C-5.2:1), and further emphasizes his inherent equality with us by speaking of him as an elder brother, as much a part of the Sonship of God as we all are (T-1.II.3-4).
How then can we sift through the illusions surrounding Christmas to encounter the reality behind the symbol? As students of A Course in Miracles we should ask ourselves, echoing Jesus’ injunction: “What is it [Christmas] for?” And what purpose does it serve in our lives? Does holding on to the values inculcated in us by social norms and religious teachings interfere with, or does it further, our establishing a personal relationship with Jesus? Does Christmas with all its festivities and merry-making distract us from, or does it foster, our truly joining with the Sonship? Better yet, why is the Jesus of the Course so different from the biblical one? In the spirit of this important statement, “To learn this course requires willingness to question every value that you hold” (T‑24.in.2:1), we may reflect on these questions as we enter the holiday season, and by asking Jesus’ help we can pass through the veils of illusion that hindered our vision of the truth.
Instead of being a holiday that at worst represents commercialism at its most rampant, or at best a holy day commemorating the special and unique sacredness of Jesus, Christmas can now become a symbol of the rebirth of the Christ in each of us: the holy light that shines equally in every seemingly separated fragment of the Sonship:
The sign of Christmas is a star, a light in darkness. See it not outside yourself, but shining in the Heaven within, and accept it as the sign the time of Christ has come (T-15.XI.2:1-2).
Thus the observance of Christmas reminds us that as we accept Jesus as our model for learning, we too can become manifestations of the Love of Christ, which, never having been separated from Its Source, needs no nativity to be. It simply awaits our acceptance, and of such is the reality of Christmas.
Excerpt From the Lighthouse
Christ is not born but neither does He die,
And yet He is reborn in everyone.
The rising and the birth are one in Him,
For it is in the advent of God’s Son
The light of resurrection is begun.
Heaven needs no nativity. And yet
The Son of Heaven needs the world to be
His birthplace, for the world is overcome
Because a Child is born. And it is He
Who brings God’s promise of eternity.
It is His birth that ends the dream of death,
For in Him death is brought to life. Behold
The earth made new and shining in the hope
Of love and pardon. Now God’s Arms enfold
The hearts that shivered in the winter’s cold.
(The Gifts of God, p. 98, by Helen Schucman)
One of the chief ways of understanding specialness is that it is the glorification of differences. You are a special person whom I love because you have something I don't have and you have something other people don't have. Or you are my special hate person because you have something I don't have – you’re evil and wicked. But we always want to see this as a place of differences. That's how the ego thought system began in the beginning. The ego saw itself as different from God and judged God for it and then it believed that it could steal from God and it was off and running. So it makes perfect sense then that's exactly what we would do with Jesus. And that's what the world has done with Jesus. That's why Christmas then becomes a holiday of hate because it is making him something special. He makes it very, very clear in the Course that he is an elder brother. That's why he says right at the beginning that he is no different to us, that he has nothing that we cannot attain (T1, II.3:10). The only difference between him and us is that he has remembered who he is and we have forgotten. But what he has remembered is just as present in us as it is in him.
Excerpted from The Holy Christ Is Born in Me Today
The point of view Jesus would have us see in terms of himself regarding the Course is that he is the Star of Christ that shines in Heaven, but so are all of us. And the person whom we call Jesus who walked this earth in Palestine was not that light because light is not present in the world. He was a reflection of that light. You do not worship a reflection, a reflection is nothing. Just like a shadow that is outside is nothing. All that the reflection does, all that Jesus did was remind us that not only is he that star that shines, not only is he the Christ, but so are we all.
But if you see him as different from you and you make the reflection into the reality then there is no way you will ever find your way back because you are seeing him as different from you. You are seeing one Son of God as different from another. And those of you who are familiar with the Course’s teaching on special relationships will remember that that is one of the criterion to evaluate whether you are believing in specialness or not. If you believe you live in a world of differences that are real and that are important and that you are qualitatively different from other people, whether better or worse, then you are making your specialness real and you are denying the unity of Christ and the oneness of Heaven.
And that is what the Christian world did. And they did not do it because they were any more sinful or ignorant than any other group. It is the exact same error that every other religious system, philosophical, economic, political system has ever made, where differences are seen as real, the world is seen as real, and then certain of those differences are worshipped as holy. And again that is how you could see the mistake that Christmas is. It makes a big deal out of nothing. It makes a big deal out of an illusion. The big deal is what Jesus is reminding you of and is reflecting, not the body that people saw, not the words that they heard, and certainly not what they wrote down.
Again that is what makes this a non-dualistic Course and what makes it so radically different from almost anything else. There is no compromise between truth and illusion. And Jesus the man, who walked this earth, is an illusion just like everyone else. He was a reflection of the truth but you do not, once again, worship the reflection. You follow the reflection to its source and that source is that capital S Self that we all share as one Christ.
So looking at this line: “The sign of Christmas is a star, a light in darkness,” which really means the reflection of that light. “See it not outside yourself,” so you do not see Jesus as someone who is outside of you, who is different from you, “but shining in the Heaven within,” which is within your own mind, “and accept it as the sign the time of Christ has come.” Christmas really means a Christ Time. But the whole meaning of Christmas as we interpret it in the Course is that time when we choose the Atonement for ourselves and we remember who we are as God’s Children. Jesus is the symbol within our dream who reminds us of that truth. But when you worship him and you worship his supposed birth date and his supposed birth place, and his parents and all that stuff, then you are making the error real and you are worshipping something that is non-existent, which makes absolutely no sense.
Excerpted from The Sign of Christmas is a Star
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