I grew up seeing Christmas as a time of sacrifice. My mother slaving over a hot stove for days preparing traditional Ukrainian dishes; hard-earned dollars stretched thin to accommodate food and drink and a child’s wish list; peace of mind given up by people rushing to meet the demands of the season and racing around shopping to meet the expectations of others; being deprived of a quiet family celebration by too much drinking and arguing. “Slaving over,” “stretched thin,” “given up,” “being deprived,” what do those words signify, if not sacrifice? What are “demands” and “expectations,” if not requests that others sacrifice to fulfill our idea of Christmas: “If you loved me, you would”.
In my adult years, on the day after Christmas, I have often been left wondering what it was all about, just as in the old Peggy Lee song, “Is That All There Is?” From what others tell me, I’m not alone in this. I think that we often end up feeling this way after Christmas because we know somewhere inside ourselves that we got it wrong once again. We yearn for something deeper than “more of”,or a new “this” or a better “that.” I believe that deep within us we have a desire to experience the true meaning of Christmas, one that bears little resemblance to the way Christmas is celebrated in our world.
The end of sacrifice and the birth of holiness
Now I try to prepare for and celebrate Christmas in a way consistent with my spiritual path, A Course in Miracles. It’s not about what to “do” as I go about the busy doings associated with this time of year, but rather how to”be,” how I can approach Christmas from a healed place in my mind, so that I can truly celebrate it with respect, honour, and rejoicing. The Course wants us to see Christmas differently from the way it is usually seen, welcoming it, rather, as “the end of sacrifice” and as “the birth of holiness” into the world.
The Christmas section in A Course in Miracles is called, “Christmas As the End of Sacrifice,” a seemingly strange description, which doesn’t seem so strange once you understand where it is coming from. The Course maintains that our sense of wholeness, completion, and worth does not come from other people, from their meeting our demands and expectations–from their sacrificing for us–but rather from our accepting our true nature as God created us, from accepting our oneness with God and others. Only that oneness will fill the hole in us we have been trying to fill by getting others to fill it for us! Jesus’ life was a striking example of one who made no demands on others and who did not see himself “sacrificing” anything to meet the demands of others. The Jesus of the Course wants us to release everyone we hold hostage to our needs and wants by accepting their holiness and ours.
The Course teaches that Christmas is not only a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but also the birth of Christ in each and every one of us. It tells us that Jesus was a man who fully identified with Christ, was a manifestation of God’s Holy Spirit here on earth, experienced his oneness with God and everyone, and brought the light of his awareness to the world. According to the Course, he came into the world to teach us that there is essentially no difference between him and us, except for the fact that he woke up to the truth and we are still asleep! He is a symbol of what is lying asleep in all of us, waiting for the day when the yearning to be reunited with it becomes so strong that Christ must be reborn in us. Jesus came, not only to mark our path with his light, but also to kindle that same light within us. “You are the light of the world with me,” he says in the Course. This is the holiness waiting to be birthed. It’s no wonder that we feel depressed after Christmas if we have succeeded in ignoring this holiness once again, or have given it only a slight nod of acknowledgement during a Christmas service.
Make this Christmas different
Here some ways we can make this coming Christmas different from those in years past:
– Make every moment a “holy instant,” one in which in the midst of all our busyness, we enter into the stillness of the present moment and allow Christ to be born in us, becoming, like him, an expression of God’s love.
– See each encounter we have as a holy one in which we give the gift of love and acceptance, rather than judgement, fault-finding, and resentment.
– Release our loved ones from our expectations and demands, not wanting to get from them but to give to them.
– As we move into “the dark days of winter,” look within, recognize, and let go of the darkness of our unlovingness and whatever blocks our expression of love, allowing it to be replaced by the light of love and forgiveness.
– Nurture the spirit of Christ within us by taking time to meditate, pray, and contemplate the coming birth, just as we would do for a baby about to be born to us.
– Give gifts, but see them as a symbol of the love we feel, recognizing that the only real gift we can give to anyone is that of seeing him or her as “complete and healed and whole, shining in the reflection of God’s love.”
– Prepare for Christmas with a joyful heart, knowing that it is for the celebration of the birth of innocence and holiness in us and in the world.
The sign of Christmas is a star, a light in the darkness. See it not outside, but shining in the Heaven within, and accept it as the sign the time of Christ has come. (A Course in Miracles, T-15.XI.2:1-2)
Originally Published in Tone Magazine, December 2005