When I was a kid, this crisp season was mostly about Christmas.
It was a peaceful beginning to a story that would end with the most devastating finale to a hero’s journey of all time, climaxing with the ultimate victory of the power of love and forgiveness.
Santa Claus was a character along the way as I celebrated the birth of the Prince of Peace, and though he usually brought a smile to my face, he often brought more confusion than anything. In the same way that I found out about Santa Claus being nothing more than an imaginary, overweight elf, I found out that Jesus probably wasn’t even born at this time of year anyway, and some even say he never existed at all.
But, regardless of the truths or untruths within the fictions we may weave to rationalize our occasions to celebrate, this season is still about rebirth for me.
And since the Mayans have now added yet another layer to our cultural lexicon of beginnings and endings, I find it appropriate to explore the deeper essence of this eternal cycle of death and resurrection. We can have peace with whatever story we are told by allowing ourselves to be the denouement to which it has been building.
This time of year, the nights are usually crisper and people are usually warmer. The stories that resonate during this season of giving and receiving are often tragic, but generally come to a happy ending. For me, such is the story of Christ.
I hesitate to call Christ by the pronoun “He,” as a “normal” Christian might refer to the person known as Jesus of Nazareth, around whom this season has circled for me and my ilk for generations. I have not considered myself a “normal” Christian in quite some time. I have since come to find that this season is celebrated by a myriad of cultures, if not all of them, as a time of rebirth.
Although the rather forceful penetration of the Church’s ideologies into our culture has largely made Jesus the reason for the Yuletide season, and consumerism has made it about great deals and low prices, pagan folklore first celebrated Yule as a celebration around the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, in honor of the dying of the sun and its rebirth (the summer solstice brings it to full maturation). Critics say that Christianity usurped the holiday from the pagans. I tend to think that the Universe is simply marvelously more creative and serendipitous than we often like to give it credit for.
If you’ve seen the first Zeitgeist movie, watched Bill Maher’s Religulous or done your own in-depth research into comparative mythologies and religions, you already know that many of the key themes in the life of Jesus have decorated many other stories throughout a variety of cultures. While the makers of those films, and most other religious skeptics, look at this information as a glaring sign of the invalidity of Christianity and its tradition of aggressive interloping, I am more fascinated by the way these themes of the greatest story ever told have woven their way through the fabric of collective culture.
While it’s simple to dismiss this as the cunning work of men who would seek to control the minds of others (as we have seen done throughout the history of the Church), there is still a level of perplexity here that cannot be attributed to even the most concerted efforts of generations of men. It leans toward the same type of mystery as crop circles and other inexplicable phenomena.
Granted, this perplexity, this almost prophetic voice whispering through the annals of history, is akin to the thematic threads that run through the Bible. It may very well be that my reverence for this synchronicity amidst civilization’s storytelling is the same surge of hope that inspires a fundamentalist Christian to connect the dots throughout their magic book in order to feel some sense of stability in this otherwise ever-changing world.
Yet it is not the historical validity of the story of Jesus that I would ever hope to prove, but the fact that the message of this messianic mystic is a constant theme in the teachings of most every other teacher of higher consciousness before or since. Although peace, love and forgiveness were not necessarily present in the other myths which contained virgin births, disciples, miracles and resurrections, the twofold commandment of loving the Source of your being with all that you are and realizing the unity of us all through the compassionate care of your fellow denizens on earth is wisdom that thrives regardless of how well the stories are told.
I recognize that many who adhere to traditional Christianity and its often contentious air of religious supremacy may disagree with my making the message more important than allegiance to their story’s central figure. However, the message of the mystics is rarely received by the mainstream. The mainstream tends to cling more stridently to symbols than to flow with the essence of what the symbols represent.
This unfortunate epidemic of these traditional adherents being so close that they can no longer see what they are looking at results ultimately in a subconscious reliance on their own self-righteousness. After all, as some of them argue the factual perfection of the Bible and cling to its references to homosexuality as an abomination, they conveniently and simultaneously forgive the ingestion of pork just in time to break out the Christmas ham.
I am not very prone to enmesh my spiritual growth in a tradition of so much perpetual argument too deeply. Yet I have still gained clearer understanding of much of the world because I have filtered it through those red letters. Though some may argue that the filter did just as much harm as good, my proclivity to love others unconditionally and live in an almost constant state of gratitude as life unfolds beautifully before me in ever expanding arrays of abundance tends to help me give at least some credence to the value of loving God with all your heart, mind, body and spirit, and loving your neighbor as yourself, just like Jesus said.
I haven’t celebrated a traditional Christmas in quite a few years for a myriad of reasons, but this year, even before the decorations go up and the Yuletide carols hit the airwaves, I am feeling especially festive. Perhaps it is the interweaving of the Mayans’ prophetic end of the world with my own tradition’s apocalyptic vision of Christ’s second coming. Perhaps I am just giddy over reaching the end of my year-long commitment to not use money. Perhaps it is the realization that we are given the opportunity for rebirth upon every breath as we die to the people we believe ourselves to be and become the people we imagine ourselves to be.
I tend to think that it’s just time for all of us to realize that new beginnings are inevitable and should be heralded with arms wide open. Our world is reborn as we are reborn.
As we celebrate this season of rebirth through whichever fallopian tubes of tradition we happened to emerge from, may we open ourselves up to a new way of understanding all of our traditions. May we recognize the beauty that can emerge even through the conflicts, bring peace to the earth by having peace with the lopsided way that it sometimes spins, and wish goodwill to all by allowing it first to flow through us.
Steve McAllister is the Director of Operational Development for the Common Wealth Time Bank in Sarasota, Florida. He is the author of The Rucksack Letters and How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld. He writes fairly regularly at The Unbroken Path. Find him on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Editor: Jayleigh Lewis