The origin of the spirit of Christmas is the historical birth of Christ. Religious teachings can be expressed in a dogmatic manner so that any universal relevance or spiritual depth is lost. And so many people today are not Christian believers. However although they do not worship Jesus Christ, this doesn’t stop them appreciating the Christmas spirit – one of forgiving, caring for and loving others.
Historical origin of spirit of Christmas
Christ spoke of doing to others what you would want them to do to you, about not
condemning those who do wrong, and about loving your enemy. This generous spirit of Christmas is a far cry from previous religious notions of a threatening and punitive patriarchal image of God.
Spirit of Christmas reflecting ‘the Christ within’
You probably have felt a prick of conscience when you know you are going against what you value. You may also notice an inner light that inspires your best actions; a spirit of Christmas that helps you understand and desire what is truly good.
For me these inclinations and perceptions represent ‘the Christ within’. This is because they can be said to exemplify the spirit of Christmas of the historical Christ. To my way of thinking, the Christ’s spirit of Christmas can sometimes come to me just as the person of Christ came into the physical presence of the people of his time. I see this spirit as what is truly human within each person.
According to the biblical account Jesus never did anything unkind; nor anything foolish or unwise. He taught that it is actions that count — not empty words. The Gospel writers record his sayings which for me have the ring of truth, speaking as he did in human terms.
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”,
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”
“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has
enough trouble of its own.”
Those who sanctimoniously used religious dogmas that hid heartless actions, couldn’t stand such beautiful, simple, and uplifting ideals. It was because of these that they hated him.
We read about his teaching, healing, and turning aside hypocritical arguments: of him lifting up the unhappy, and rebuking the proud: also facing those who hated him, and forgiving those who tried to harm him, despite the agony he suffered on the cross.
Jung’s view of Christ
For Carl Gustav Jung, Christ is an archetypal image of the Self – the fullest potential, unity and destiny of the person as a whole. In Jung’s view attempting to live your life along the lines Christ lived his, is to tread a potentially difficult road: it is allowing the ordinary attachments of the ego to die in order that the Self – the Christ – may become incarnate within.
My view of the Christ within
To me ‘the Christ within’ is something better than myself; a human face of infinite and eternal love and wisdom. I reject the idea that the real cause of all things that exist is a soul-less force of nature lacking any intention or purpose. Instead, for me ‘the Christ within’ is the creative source for all civilised behaviour and all life; an invisible yet revitalizing spirit. You might say this is a mystical experience of oneness with cosmic consciousness. Yes, I would go along with that. I would also ask whether the great mystics claim such experience as having no divine source?
Swedenborg’s view of the Divine Human
Likewise Swedenborg wrote of ‘the Divine Human’ as an embodiment of the eternal and infinite origin of everything good. This is the idea that the foundation, of our consciousness, love and thought, and freedom and rationality, cannot be less than human – divinely human. This divine human is said to appear in the world to show love winning over malice, just as the Christ of Judea never turned on his tormentors.
If this is true then the light of that kind of love can lead you away from dark forces within the shadowy parts of the mind. In the same way Christ taught that one can be saved from the unhappiness that comes from contempt and malice and instead find personal growth that comes from practising care and concern.
I believe that the spirit of Christmas is about strengthening the link between yourself and the source of all that is humane. How could you be free to love if you were cut off from the origins of love?
Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems