When I was a kid, Christmas night was the most miraculous day of my life. Many people would guess of course, there were the presents, the guests, the holiday, the atmosphere of the season, the family time.
And it would be true, partly. These factors were all important and special, sure they were, but they were not miraculous. So what was that secret ingredient, the addition which made the difference? It was the lights. More specifically, the colorful lights of the Christmas tree refracted by the granite-like glass door insert.
I don’t come from a religious family. For us, Christmas was rather about getting together, spending time with family, feasts and presents.
We were still in the socialist era in Hungary, and my father worked as a high rank army officer. You may know that religion and the concept of God was not welcome during those years. It wasn’t persecuted either, but those who practiced their religion did it secretly, without talking about it with anyone, let alone in public.
At home, my dad would have a low opinion of people who believed in God. He believed in socialism instead. My mom didn’t share his rigorous views, but she was also more on the non-believer side: having had some bad experiences with a priest when she was a child, she formed her opinion that the church was not a place of trust, purity and shelter and therefore religion wasn’t, either.
The mixture of secular and religious elements did not seem to be weird to me as a child. For quite some years the only reference I heard about Jesus Christ was that of little Jesus, who brings presents to children.
It was only years later, that I learnt whom he was, and many years later that I started wondering how the light I was so mesmerized about was connected to him. So I looked it up, and this was what I’ve found.
Why is Jesus referred to as the “Light of the World” and how does that relate to Christmas?
Jesus is the “true light” (Jn 1:9), the “Light of the World” (Jn 8:12; 9:5; 12:46), and he was born during the night watch (Lk 2:8), at midnight, when it was pitch black outside, the time when the darkness was the deepest and most intense. On that first Christmas night, the light shined in the darkness (Jn 1:5a), the glory of the Lord shone (Lk 2:9), the darkness has not overcome it (Jn 1:5b), and it enlightens everyone (Jn 1:9).
The birth of the Christ child fulfilled Isaiah’s ancient prophecy: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shone” (Is 9:1). The newborn Son of God shines like the sun; he is the “sun of justice” who brings “healing rays” (Mal 3:20).
Light is a rich symbol with many meanings. It can represent sacredness, sanctity, blessedness, or holiness; purity, innocence, goodness, or perfection; glory, splendor, grandeur, majesty, magnificence, greatness, or wonder; intelligence, enlightenment, insight, wisdom, intelligence, or knowledge; divinity; the presence of God; joy; and truth.
The most common symbol for Jesus as Light is a single undecorated white candle. Such a candle can stand alone or be placed inside the Advent Wreath. Another common practice is to remove the four colored candles from the Advent Wreath on Christmas Day and replace them with four white candles for the rest of the Christmas season. Other ways to feature Jesus as Light would be to use white candles as a centerpiece on the dinner table, to place one or more white votive candles in prominent locations around the house, or to place a single white light or an array of white lights on the Christmas tree, a wreath, or any other decoration. In church the candles in the sanctuary also remind us that Jesus is the Light.
The Most Wonderful Time
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” says one popular Christmas song sung by 1960s singer Andy Williams. The song says it’s “the most wonderful time” because of the “holiday greetings,” “parties for hosting,” “caroling out in the snow,” and “loved ones near.”
The Christmas season is one of the most magical times of the year, especially in predominantly Christian countries. There is a spirit of giving and happiness, despite whatever hardships have happened during the year. But the real reason that it’s the most wonderful time is because it celebrates the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Born in the Meridian of Time
This year, calendars around the world proudly proclaim that it’s been 2020 years since the birth of Jesus Christ, to be precise. This system of reckoning time has been in use for thousands of years, and places the birth of Jesus Christ at the center of time. More recently, the abbreviations BC and AD have been replaced with BCE and CE (Before the Common Era and Common Era). However, the concept remains the same. The years 2019 CE and 2019 AD mean the same thing: 2020 years since Christ was born. His birth is the central event in time, and in all of history.
The Light of the World
Jesus is the light of the world. In John chapter 8, Jesus told His disciples, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). Throughout the Bible, many verses reaffirm this truth.
The new lights in the heavens are symbolic of Jesus Christ as the light of the world. He brought the light of truth to the world and overcame the darkness of sin and death through His Atonement. Jesus Christ is the light that shines through the darkness of the world, showing us the right way to go and how to overcome the darkness of temptation and sin.
Christmas is made even more wonderful when we remember that Jesus Christ’s birth is the reason we celebrate Christmas. He is the Light of the world, and when we celebrate His birth we celebrate His great gift to us of overcoming death and sin. He is the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world, and the Light of the world whose birth we commemorate and celebrate always, but especially at the most wonderful time of the year.
Past and present coming together
Back then, about thirty something – forty years ago the lights had the biggest impact on me. More than anything I’d been waiting for that flickering, heart warming wonder. Today, I’m grateful for the wonder of light growing in me. In spite of, or even thanks to the pressing circumstances I’ve never felt so perfectly in my place, calm and stable and happy. Happy, indeed. And I have to tell you that I would never, ever have guessed that it’ll happen under such pressing circumstances.
This Christmas is special
It’s never been so vivid, so tangible for me, as this year, for many reasons.
For one, I’ve never prepared for Christmas during a world pandemic. People in masks everywhere, coffeehouses and restaurants open only for takeaway. Families calling off Christmas feasts and celebrations out of fear. My father in hospital, my mom in doubt about what we should do, my daughter quarantined, seeing the policemen checking her more often than her grandma.
Then, there’s been vast changes in my life in the past few months. Everything I considered to be fairly stable either changed or came to an end or the very least, became unsure.
Also, as an instructor of Karma Killer Yoga by Anamé Program, I see and talk to quite some people every day and I’ve heard about hard circumstances, difficult decisions to make, losses and existential fears.
Today I received a letter from the founder of the school where my daughter goes to (online of course, for the past almost two months). It was a sorrowful piece about how uncertain and unfortunate this year was, expressing the hope that next year it’ll be better. You could feel the regret and sadness and indignation behind the sentences.
Considering the above, I’d have all the reasons in the world to be upset and become pessimistic about this year’s celebrations and the future in general with challenges in every aspect of my life from finances to family issues. I surely would. Now, I hope you’re already sensing that huuuge BUT. And here it comes.:)
But I’m not. Not because I convinced myself that I’m such a highly developed spiritual being that no virus or any of its consequences can affect me or because I decided to believe there’s no pandemic at all, it’s merely a conspiracy.
I don’t know what’s going to happen: to me, to my family, to the world. In the short or in the long run, I really don’t. And I’m aware that I cannot have an impact on the circumstances. So I’m not trying to control them.
There’s one thing, though, that I do have the power to control. I can control my inner world. Anything may come from outside, but what’s going on inside is my business.
And without this period of challenging circumstances and with all the unpredictability and insecurity of the whole thing I wouldn’t have been able to experience all this. During times we’d call ‘normal’ there’s not such a big opportunity, as we get engulfed in everyday tasks and presume that the scenery will remain the same.
But when I experienced how anything I thought fairly set and stable could change in a day (let alone within a couple of hours), it was like waking up from a dream. Or more like a defibrillation. It suddenly showed me the fragility of the whole setting and that no circumstance or person or nothing outside of me will give me a solid orientation point. So what was there to do? Well, panic. 🙂 That’s certainly one option and I’m not saying it’s never reared its head in the past couple of months, but that’s not what I want to talk about.
It was the option of finding that orientation point inside. In my choices, in deciding what to let emerge in my inner world. What thoughts, feelings. What kind of life I wanted for myself. One that’s driven by fear and seclusion or one that’s based on love and unity?
Let me give you two examples.
In a relationship I used to look for signs of how it’s beginning to get worse or decline. Whenever the other said or did something that I thought wasn’t as loving I began to sense that it was coming to an end and he didn’t care about me anymore. And the fear of it would drive me even more to concentrate on, even to look forward to these signs. And guess what happens if you do that all the time to? You’re going to find them for sure.
Another example is to have hard feelings for someone. It gives a certain satisfaction to think over a hundred times how they were not right in what they said or how they behaved. Or how they hurt you. And it may even be righteous. It’s not easy to let these feelings go: you may feel that they are part of you, part of your story. And if you simply let it go, you’d somehow justify their actions, how they behaved, all the things they said (or didn’t say). For me it’s been very hard. I used to hold on to my wounds as if they were treasures.
What happens is that in exchange for your new life you give your grudges and these stories. It’s literally choosing between two lives. One driven by your ego: the seclusion, the stories in your head and holding your grudges. Or one which invites the light, Jesus in your life. It’s a huge difference.
The light of Jesus
This Christmas is special because while preparing for it, every day I had to make a decision. Whether I choose the darkness of loneliness and fear and holding grudges and concentrating on what’s missing and feeling sorry for it. Or to put my attention on the love and values in my relationships and my work and feeling grateful for my life, my circumstances. On the wonderful thing that I do have healthy food to eat, a nice and clean home and truly wonderful people around me.
For many years my life had been an endless cycle of discontentment and fear of how things are going to turn out, of how I may not get what I wanted and a feeling that I was alone and no God or person actually care about me (except perhaps of my daughter, but she’s not going to stay with me forever).
It’s been important to embrace all this. Not only because these feelings and thoughts and the state of being which they determined for me show me the road I don’t want to take any longer. But also because back then I didn’t have a choice. The choice was only made accessible to me by Karma Killer Yoga and by Anamé Program. So in this period of preparing for Christmas it’s been important, more than ever not to blame myself or to think that I messed it all up.
Instead, I accepted these old ways of feeling and thinking and acting. I was even grateful for them: without them holding me a prisoner in the dark for so long I wouldn’t be so thirsty for light.
So every day, I was in constant vigilance. Whenever fear came because my old patterns interpreted a word or a gesture or a challenge that emerged as a ‘sign’ of declining. Whenever anger came or the narration in my head how I am right and the other wrong. Whenever moaning would take over.
I decided not to. I decided that instead of the fear of getting hurt I’ll open my heart to the other, whatever the consequence. I offered my anger and my need to be right to God. And with each decision the darkness weakened. With each decision I felt lighter and more spacious and happy.
It’s nothing like seeing through rose-colored glasses. You don’t deny any hardships. On the contrary: whenever something comes up, you deal with it right away. Stay open, available and sensitive to the truth of the situation. What you lose, what you let go of is not your clairvoyance, only your judgments and all the blame towards yourself and others that make it blurry.
With each decision you write your future. You draw the outlines of what kind of life you want for yourself and then coloring it bit by bit. Therefore, each decision is an invitation. Either to the darkness of isolation or to light. The light of love, unity, compassion, creativity and happiness. An invitation to the light of Jesus.
And if you already have that picture and can’t wait for it to become reality, then in the next post you’ll find some practical advice as to how to achieve it. Let’s begin the new year together, with the intention of development in our hearts!