By Swami Sivananda
Christmas is known to all men the world over historically as the memorable day of the birth of Jesus, the Saviour. Though it is true that Christmas is thus celebrated as the day of the advent of Christ into this world, yet it also symbolises a very deeply significant truth of the spiritual life. Jesus Christ lived and symbolised Divine Consciousness. He is the very personification of Divinity. He was born at a time when ignorance, superstition, greed, hatred and hypocrisy prevailed upon the land. The rulers were arrogant and unrighteous. The people were avaricious, indolent and heedless. Purity was forgotten. Morality was neglected. They were intent upon worshipping mammon than adoring God. There was no idealism.
In the midst of these conditions, Christ was born and He worked a transformation in the lives of people. He gave a new and a spiritual turn to the lives of man. There came a change upon the land. People started upon a new way of life. Thus a new era dawned for the world.
Those conditions of darkness, impurity and materialism that prevailed before the coming of Christ signify to you the inner state of the seeker’s personality before discrimination had dawned upon him and before a spiritual awakening had taken place. In that period the seeker has no thought of God or higher spiritual life. He is immersed in the pursuit of the material things of this external physical world. He is the slave of his senses. He has no spiritual ideal in life. He is desire-ridden. Arrogance, avarice and sensuality characterise his personality. He lives a life of lust, anger, greed, deluded attachment, pride and jealousy.
If this state of things must cease and the seeker must enter into a new life of spiritual aspiration, purity and devotion, then the Christ-spirit must take its birth within his heart. That is the real Christmas when the Divine element begins to express itself in the heart of the man. From then onward, light begins to shine where darkness was before. Ignorance gives place to the beginning of wisdom. Impurity is replaced by purity. Hatred ceases and love begins to blossom forth.
In his innermost core, man is essentially Divine. But upon this field of human personality two forces keep acting. They are the forces of good and evil, of light and of darkness. The Divine and the undivine both operate in the human consciousness of man. To completely overcome and eradicate the undivine elements and to fully manifest the supreme Divine element in all its radiant light and glory is to be achieved only through the living of the Christ-life, in the utmost faithful detail. This is spiritual life. This is Yoga. This is Sadhana (spiritual practice). This is the method of Self-realisation. This is the great Path which leads us to Immortality, Supreme Bliss and Eternal Peace.
If the Christ-life is to be lived, first of all, the child-Christ has to be born in us. Then only the real spiritual life commences for the aspirant. The first manifestation of the Divine urge in the form of spiritual aspiration and the recognition of the spiritual ideal signifies the birth of the infant Jesus within the seeker’s being. From hence starts the living of the Christ-life in all its spiritual details of sublime purity, faith in Divinity, mercy, compassion, love, selflessness, desirelessness, prayerfulness, etc. Hence starts the life of earnest Yoga and Sadhana, of self-restraint and simplicity, of unbroken serenity and peace, balance of mind, unflinching courage in the face of all oppositions and perfect dedication to the worship of God through the service of man. This is the spiritual implication within of the Christmas that is celebrated without.
With the advent of this Christ-spirit within the heart of the seekers, all human desires come to an end and they are replaced by pure higher Divine aspiration, Spirituality overcomes materialism. You break free from your slavery to the senses. You begin to live a new life, a divine life of purity, love, renunciation, humility, non-attachment and selflessness. Your life becomes sublime like the life of Christ. You begin to live a life of complete faith and dependence upon God. You always think of God, talk of Him and live for Him. Helping others becomes a real joy to you. You become a living witness of the Divine. All your life’s activities flow towards God.
Here a very small, but very beautiful, point of deep significance is to be noted without fail. It reveals a deep spiritual Law. It is the time and the manner of the birth of the Lord upon the holy Christmas day. Jesus Christ was not born in a grand palace. He was not born to very wealthy or learned parents. Also He was not born in the full blaze of daylight with the knowledge of all men. Jesus Christ was born in a simple lowly place, a corner of a stable. He was born to humble and poor parents, who had nothing to boast about, except their own spotless character and holiness. Also He was born in the darkness in the obscure hour of midnight, when no one even knew about it, except a few Divinely blessed people.
The above point of deep significance tells you that the spiritual awakening comes to the seeker, who is perfectly humble and “meek” and “poor in spirit.” The quality of true humility is one of the indispensable fundamentals. Then we find simplicity, holiness and the renunciation of all desire for worldly wealth and pride of learning. Thirdly, even as Christ was born unknown to the world and in the obscurity of darkness, even so, the advent of the Christ-spirit takes place in the inwardness of man when there is total self-effacement self-abnegation. Where self-aggrandisement and vanity abide, there the descent of Divinity cannot occur, for these expressions of egotism are ever a bar to the unfoldment of the Divine consciousness. Empty thyself and I shall fill thee—is the Divine admonition of the Lord. The Kingdom of Heaven within is for the lowly in spirit. Thus, true humility and self-effacement are the beautiful harbingers, the dawnlights, as it were, that herald the break of the joyous new day, the advent of the new era of a life in Spirit. When they appear within you, then the holy Christmas takes place. There is a new birth then.
This is the birth into a Divine Life. It was the secret of this birth that centuries ago the Lord Jesus sweetly explained to the good Nicodemus. The good man did not quite understand what precisely Christ meant when He taught that a man must be born again if he is to attain the Kingdom of God. “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. Then it was that Christ explains that this birth is inward, not of the body, but in the Spirit. Such inner spiritual birth is essential if the Supreme is to be attained, if true bliss is to be experienced. Rejoicing takes place only when Christmas has come.
O humanity! O modern age! Hearken to this significant inner message of Christmas. May the true implication of the Divine Christ Personality dawn upon your hearts! Realise fully that so long as the thirst for mammon and the arrogance of power infects the nature of man, so long the Christ-spirit of peace, blessedness and true happiness cannot enter into your life. When Christmas is being celebrated all over the Continent and in England, America and in the entire Christian world, may this be borne in mind that, “unless ye be born again, ye cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven,” and that unless the simplicity and the purity of heart of the little children come to indwell the hardened, unregenerate nature of the modern man, the advent of the Divine Grace as peace, prosperity, universal well-being and concord are indeed far, far away. As with the individual, even so with the nations of the world, the fundamentals of true faith, true charity, genuine humility and a spiritual rebirth alone can usher in true bliss and brotherhood upon this earth. It is when such a transformation occurs in the nations of men and it is when they renounce their policies of hatred and greed that the modern world will truly enjoy the blessings of the real, universal Christmas. Then will be the advent of the Blessed Christ into this despairing world. Till then Christmas will be but a travesty of the real glory of the Lord’s advent. Be born again and live anew, O World of Today! May the bliss and radiance of the Lord’s advent permeate the earth!
But seekers, mark this! When Divinity is to manifest, welcome it with open arms. Do not be so engrossed in the world and deny place to the Lord. At His blessed advent the land was so engrossed in counting men and reckoning of money that the inns and houses of Bethlehem were so crowded out that there was hardly any place left to receive the Lord. The census and the taxation signify the soul’s bondage to and preoccupation in earthly human relationships and attachments and its engrossment with lucre. Let the aspirant beware of these two vital mistakes. Turning away inwardly from all pursuit of earthly wealth and overcoming all attachment, be thou ever fully receptive to the expression of the Divine Spirit within.
Beloved seekers, usher in now the real and spiritual Christmas within your being, become desireless. Conquer egoism. Become embodiments of true humility. Develop meekness and lowliness of spirit by humble surrender unto the Lord. Be courageous to overcome all obstacles. Joyously renounce mammon. Welcome the descent of the Light of Grace within. Rejoice in the advent of the Divine. Thus celebrate the Christmas that ultimately leads you on the glorious climax of Transfiguration, Resurrection and Ascension. Be crowned with Divine glory. Attain immortality, perfect freedom and be for ever steeped in infinite bliss. Through Christmas realise the Christ-consciousness and the radiant light of Atmic (divine) Wisdom. Amen.