The Real Meaning of Christmas (for me)

One of the great things about New Thought congregations is that they can “think outside of the box.” We are aware that the “box” within which we think and view our world constitutes our structure of knowing and the mental models that shape how we gather evidence that supports our BS (belief system). In addition, we have the ability to step outside of our structure of knowing and view the world as a constellation of belief systems. And, as some of us attain 2nd tier awareness, we have the ability to entertain competing systems without becoming diminished by those that differ from our own. This capacity to think outside of our mental models frees our consciousness from the filters that often define our reality.

imagine no religion I remember the first time I began to consciously think outside of the box and when I became aware that I had the ability to transcend my personal reality (personality). It was in 1971, after hearing John Lennon’s masterpiece Imagine. I was 21 years old and on the Board of Trustees of Unity Christ Church in San Francisco. It seems fitting to mention this transformative moment that has become a world-wide phenomenon. And, in commemoration of the 32nd anniversary since Lennon’s death, I wish to share how his inspiring words have helped me find the real meaning of Christmas.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one
Here’s a blast from the past:

Amidst all of the violence and suffering in the world during the holiday season; the proclamations that Christmas is no longer a celebration of the birth of Jesus; the rhetoric around a so-called war on Christmas; and the multitude of insults directed at religious moderates by fundamentalists who claim that tolerance toward Islam an other non-Christian religions undermines the sanctity of the Christian faith; these tipping points can eclipse how we experience Christmas and the meaning that it has for us.

And so, the inspired words of this song suggest that when there are no countries, no religion, no possessions, nothing to kill or die for, no greed and hunger, a new world vision emerges, one where as a brother / sisterhood of humanity, we live life in peace and in oneness while sharing all the world. The challenge is: can you imagine this?

As I struggle to both imagine such a world and join the chorus of countless others on the spiritual path working to bring it forth, I sense that the primary obstacle to peace on earth and good will toward all is linked to religious fundamentalism and extremism. Such narrow ideologies have held hostage entire countries and their societies as governments compete for influence and power on the world stage. Wars, terrorism, poverty, prejudice, injustice, corporate greed, and legions of other parasitic agendas that devalue the human spirit, the environment, and the sacredness of all life constitute the context within which we are challenged by make relevant the spiritual path and for me, Christmas.

Most of us grew up with an early childhood belief in Santa Claus as our first sense of what Christmas might mean. Do you remember when that belief was shattered or when it faded away? Think about it. When you had sufficient reason to release this belief, you were no longer tethered to all of the dynamics Santaof that belief. You discovered a greater reality that made a new sense of the very things that originally supported your belief in Santa. You may also have noticed that while the belief in Santa was core to your experience of Christmas, it was not integral to your appreciation of the intrinsic aspects of Christmas–the expression of generosity, compassion, kindness and the desire for peace on earth.

What if all beliefs, including religion, are like the belief in Santa Claus? And like the belief in Santa, all beliefs eclipse our direct experience of reality and more importantly, the expression of our innate attributes of being because beliefs filter our perception and influence our meaning-making. My sense is that we cannot discover the real meaning of Christmas until we release the belief system we have about God and awaken to a direct experience of God. In other words, the true meaning of Christmas emerges independent of our religious or Christian context.

A child is bornWhile the birth of Jesus is worthy of celebration, especially as a metaphor for understanding how the divine is born anew in all human hearts, it fails to include the most essential and important principle that transcends our Christian heritage. We are celebrating the WRONG birth if we do not acknowledge that Christmas is also about OUR birth. Christmas is about your birth, your parents’ birth, your children’s and grandchildren’s birth. It is about the birth of every single child that comes into the world. Absent of that recognition, religion, including Christianity, will always fall short of localizing the divine. For me, the essence underlying the meaning of Christmas is not the story of Jesus’ birth so much, but the implication that we are all the Christ-child sent into this world to bring peace on earth. Because Mary and Joseph weren’t our parents, we didn’t get the message from Day One that we are the only begotten of God. We took on other messages that became the conditioning of our sense of separation. Yet, the magic of Christmas is rooted in the human heart’s capacity to demonstrate generosity, compassion, and loving kindness in the presence of unspeakable circumstances. It arises in the midst of the extremes in life.

I find comfort and hope in learning about how the extremes of our hunan experience can bring us into a greater expression of our

christmas-truce-storyhumanity when we share together in the struggle of being in this world, but not of it. I recall the heart-warming story of a Christmas truce that happened during the early months World War I, where British, French and German combatants put down their rifles and bayonets to come together in peace to celebrate Christmas. The YouTube video below puts says it all:

I believe that we can all agree that Christmas is about the hope for a better world and peace in our lifetime. Yet, peace and a world that works for everyone seems to be the impossible dream. Perhaps the seeming futility of imagining a world free of greed and hunger, a world that is shared by all of the people is not a wasted effort once we get past our need to have the world be a certain way before we can feel safe. Maybe our safety and security arises as a result of who we are being, rather than how we are having our life. Maybe Christmas is less about making the world a better place, but making us better people in the midst of circumstances that would otherwise diminish us. I think Kelly Clarkson conveys the nuance that brings the real meaning of Christmas into focus:

Jane and I wish all of you a joy-filled holiday and a Happy New Year. May your life and ministry embody the spirit of Christmas as you further the evolution of humanity. And, while the world may seem like it is going to hell in a hand basket, its our path to birth a greater reality that makes how we are with each other the essence of the real meaning of Christmas.

Blessings, Gary

3 thoughts on “The Real Meaning of Christmas (for me)”

  1. Hi, Rev Dr. Gary,
    Have read and listened to your Christmas message several times since Sunday, and, been moved to share it with other Unity friends
    no longer in Spokane, and, some family members (of other spiritual persuasions). One sent me the following (click below), ”Imagine” musical video by Penn Masala that I think you may appreciate as much as us.
    I also have the original, much cherished, ”Imagine,” cartoon published in the Spokesman Review years ago drawn by a gifted, nationally syndicated longtime political artist friend, Milt Prigee, which I will bring in to share with you.
    Annette and I and the congregation are blessed to have you and Jane teaching and entertaining us – never more so than last Sunday. You and we are in the right place at the right time.
    Cheers and Love, Royce & Annette

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