What is the Christmas Spirit? Though Christmas is a Christian holiday, I believe there is a universal message that all people, Christian and non- Christian alike, can learn. If we can get beyond the attachment of “my” religion, there are many beautiful messages to be shared throughout the religions, cultures and traditions of the world. In fact, the Christmas message is so universal, that it appears time and again in religions and even in popular culture.
So what is this message? Throughout history, humans have struggled with the balance of good and evil: corruption versus compassion; greed in conflict with generosity; arrogance and humility; love and apathy; hatred and tranquillity and; self- doubt compared to empowerment. So often, we chose the dark side of our character even though it brings pain to us and our loved ones. The message of Christmas is to choose the light, not just the light side of our character, but the light side of the universe, the forces that compel us to do good, to be the best of ourselves and to live beyond our petty fears and concerns and move into a greater future.
My understanding of the Christmas message is that Jesus was sent to show humanity the way towards the Light of God. It is the story of the battle between light and darkness, good and evil that has been told the world over and across time. Many cultures have stories in their traditions that represent this archetypal struggle: The Jews have the story of Hanukkah (The Festival of Light); The Hindus celebrate Diwali (the festival of lights) which spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair; Charles Dickens writes about it in A Christmas Carol with the lessons to Scrooge from the ghosts of Christmas’ past, present and future; George Lucas deals with it in the story of the Jedi and the Sith in the Star Wars Series and; JK Rowling discusses it in the Harry Potter books with the wizards of light fighting the dark wizard Voldemorte and his Death- Eaters.
The context of Jesus’ story is set in Roman Palestine and Jesus tried to preach a better path away from the corruption of the Jewish priests and the Roman politicians. The story of Hanukkah, set centuries before highlighted the suppression by the Greeks of the Jewish way of life and yet somehow, despite the Greeks’ best efforts, that way of life could not be quashed. In both stories, a greater force was sent to change the status quo, to show people that there is a force greater than them nurturing the Path of Truth, the Universal message. The acts are often depicted as miracles: the star that led the three Kings to the baby Jesus and; the one day’s worth of oil to burn the ever- lasting light (that represents God’s presence) in the Jewish Temple that lasted for eight days. May be they are in fact universal forces that show us we live in a supporting universe of love?
This spiritual message is important. I think it is significant that it is often represented by light and the use of candles (Christmas and Hanukkah) and Fireworks (Diwali). Intuitively we understand that light is good. We must make a stand against the darkness and that when we unite under the banner of light we are stronger. That light is an internal force, a flame burning within that is the human spirit. It is also an external force, from beyond our self, from the universe itself, nurturing and nourishing our inner flame. The religious festivals and cultural stories remind us of this wonderful universal spirit of giving and sharing that we all enjoy. A plethora of Christmas movies that celebrate the Christmas spirit often make us feel warm and empowered to do our best good. To embrace the light and its significance is a message to be held as a way of life. The light never to be forgotten, forever nurtured.