Another Version of Christmas
As most people know, December is a chaotic month blending shopping, socializing, Santa, and sundry religious observances. Amidst predominantly Christian rituals are sprinkled Chanukah and a variety of solstice celebrations. Not to ignore the latter, this article provides a broader perspective of the Christian Holyday and invites those who resonate with it to engage the season more mindfully, and, reverently.
Christmas signifies hopeful celestial foreshadowing yet is eclipsed by the celebration of Jesus’ redemptive mission at Easter. This is understandable, perhaps, if one views the Savior motif as unique to Christianity. I assert that it isn’t. The birth of a Christ – in this case, Jesus – is never inconsequential but must be viewed in context of a larger ongoing commitment of Spirit to humanity. As such, it entails a deeper significance and merits greater veneration than is ordinarily given.
What is the basis for my position? Let’s begin by exploring terms more fully.
The word ‘Christ’ may have different interpretations according to frames of reference. In mainstream Christian belief it hails from Christos, a Greek word meaning “anointed” and is equivalent to Mashiach or Messiah in Hebrew. To be a Christ, or Messiah, is to be “the anointed of God;” one specifically chosen by God for a special task – often as king. Subsequently, Jesus is oft-viewed as a ruler whose kingdom is divine. Interpretations of his mission vary according to diverse doctrinal perspectives but a common theme of atonement is shared with the redemptive act, self-sacrifice – in this case manifest as crucifixion, which served to uplift, reconcile, or help reconnect the children of God with their creator.
Less visible but no less ancient is a body of esoteric belief that views Jesus as a spiritual master who attained oneness with God. In this instance, the term ‘only begotten son’ or ‘Son of God’ doesn’t refer to a physical body but, instead, to the consciousness of God that permeates all creation. In Vedic scripture the universal Spirit intelligence is known as Kutastha Chaitanya and is synonymous with “Cosmic Christ,” the “Infinite Christ,” or “Christ Consciousness.” It is this oneness with God that was manifest by Jesus, Krishna, and other divine incarnations.
The reference to “other divine incarnations” implies that Jesus wasn’t the only ‘Son of God’ nor the only Savior to uplift humanity. Consider these parallel scriptures:
- New Testament
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” John 3: 17
- Bhagavad Gita
“Although I am unborn, the Lord of all living entities, and have an imperishable nature, yet I appear in this world by virtue of my divine power.
Whenever there is a decline in righteousness and an increase in unrighteousness, O Arjuna, at that time I manifest myself on earth.
To protect the righteous, to annihilate the wicked, and to reestablish the principles of dharma I appear on this earth, age after age.” BG 4:6-8
Depicted here is the Son of God as Avatar. Throughout history, spiritual illumination has come to humanity when God manifested in human form. The Sanskrit term, Avatar, literally means “descent of God” or “descent of divinity into flesh.” Religions originated with holy beings, or prophets, like Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Moses, and Muhammad. Each infused new vitality or redemptive clarity into systems that were sliding towards hypocrisy or worse. Swami Shivananda added a personal and devotional element to the drama: “If God does not come down as a human being, how will human beings love him? That is why He comes to human beings as a human being.”
What’s the purpose of all this? The answer is twofold: First, every Avatar has a specific mission and message. In simple terms it may be said that Christ revealed the supremacy of God’s love over human self-limitation; Buddha rejected hierarchical systems and taught people to be lamps unto themselves; Krishna preached spiritual balance and God-centered activity. Each theme was relevant to the age in which it was given. Secondly, Avatars serve as saviors, i.e. bearers of enlightenment, who re-establish virtue and spiritual truth whenever the world has lost its way. No matter where an avatar appears, their impact ultimately uplifts the world in a fashion governed by and in accordance with God-ordained roles.
The significance of this is paramount: God has an ongoing benevolent relationship with humanity. Paramahansa Yogananda taught that when Avatars incarnate, extraordinary amounts of spiritual energy flood the ethers. There is also an annual recurrence of that sacred infusion on their birthdays. To enhance receptivity to the Christ consciousness, Yogananda instituted an all-day meditation tradition at Christmas time. This practice – and ones like it – deepen awareness of the Sacred Presence and help one derive uplifting benefit. Let this also be a reminder that God repeatedly seeks to awaken the sleeping divinity in humankind and usher its return Home. As stated in Psalm 82:6, “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” Realize this, in addition to the natural import of the season – however you commemorate it – and rejoice in the caring love of Spirit eternally demonstrated by the Incarnations who bless us with their illuminating Presence.