The Search for the Meaning of Christmas

By Raph Lazo

Christmas is one of the most recognized festivals in the year. It is so recognized that even a number of non-Christian countries declare bank holidays on Christmas day. It is a wonderful day for children who receive presents, and a day of continuing misery for many who have nothing.

Christmas means many things and this is reflected in the numerous variations of Christmas stories that exist. It is almost as if each one wishes to express Christmas in their own very personal and unique way. Perhaps, this very variation is in fact a search for the meaning of Christmas, a meaning that every year is under greater and greater challenge as the world continues to struggle with a growing separation from the deeper meaning of Christmas.

Christmas, what could it mean? If one takes it apart, two words come to fore: Christ and Mass. It is the Mass of Christ. We all nod our heads knowingly in agreement and figure that we fully understand the meaning of this. After all, many of us have experienced a mass and we do know what that means. What if, however, the meaning of “Mass” was not quite what we expect? Long ago, the service that we refer to as the “Mass” was probably called something else. We may never know what it was originally called but think of the possibility that it was called something else. Over time, as its adherents grew, and Latin became more and more the language of the growing Church, “Mass” became more defined and meaningful as a word. One possibility is that the word “Mass” comes from the Latin “missa” or dismissal. The idea would come from the ending words of the Mass : Ite, missa est or “Go (the prayer) has been sent.” Should the word “Mass” find its origins in this idea, then a mass is a dismissal, a letting go or releasing.

Let us continue with this imagination for a little more. Should this be the case, then Christmas may also be understood as “Christ letting go or releasing.” When one reflects on this, a deeper meaning of Christmas begins to reveal itself. Christmas is about Christ letting go, letting go of His non-physical being that He may become physical in nature. If Christ is willing to let go of His spiritual nature to become man, should not man let go of his material nature to become spirit? It is an intriguing question.

Bound as humanity is to its very material nature, the thought of letting go of this material nature, to “free our spirit” so to speak generally will lead us to a topic of death or other  “out of body” like events and experiences. And yet, as beings that are both spiritual and material, how do we reconcile our existence with these seemingly polar conditions. Could it be that humanity, by its very nature, is bi-polar?

Let us just imagine for a moment that humanity is truly both spiritual and physical in nature. Then we should be able, with the correct preparation to let go of our material side to be able to release our spiritual. After all, we do this every night when we sleep; we are just not conscious of this. The Greeks have long “documented” this regular out of body phenomena in their myths. And perhaps, this idea is carried through to Christmas, an event that occurs at night.

Christmas then could be a great meeting time; a great meeting time of a great spiritual being that is slowly shedding its spiritual nature to become human. A great meeting time for humans, to pause in their material existence to release their spiritual beings to meet this Great Spirit that is descending.  Understandably this boggles our imagination; but perhaps, this is what a real Christmas even needs: imagination.

In some respects, the imaginative gesture of Christmas has gone into more material expressions: the brightest, gaudiest Christmas decoration; the most creative, expensive, impressive gift that will atone for our lack of love throughout the year.

We could use the imagination of Christmas to light up our inner beings, our spirits so to speak, that our inner hearths be aflame with warmth, a welcoming sign for a visitor approaching from the furthest reaches of the heavens. Christmas is a dark and cold time of the year, to remind us of the great and lonely journey any spirit makes from the warmth of its spiritual home in the heavens to the relative cold of its material home on earth. And like any new home, the warmth with which a visitor or new neighbor is met is a sign of how welcoming the neighborhood may be.

Hence let us prepare this Christmas with the understanding that we are released from our mundane routines that we may meet this great spiritual being on His way to earth.

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