A final Christmas blog! Final, for this year, because we’ve all had enough of it…? Yet surely Christmas is a beginning, not an end? Yes, it’s a culmination of a lot of preparation, a lot of present buying, planning for the day, the meal, the drink, the “gathering”. Certainly it’s the coming together of all the things that make Christmas what it actually isn’t…a spend-fest of materialism, gluttony and acquisitiveness.
Actually, I would like to suggest that it is less a culmination than a beginning. It is a nativity, a birth, potentially, of a new, spiritual year, as symbolised by the birth-incarnation of Jesus as the Christ. What follows is a return to light, breaking through the darkest days of winter as we turn, in the northern hemisphere at least, toward the coming Spring.
That’s why this date in December was decided on. It coincides approximately with the winter solstice and the Jewish festival of lights, Chanukah. The longest night of the year and the darkest night of the year; the longest night with no moon.
I recently came across a reading of the Christmas saga as a Cosmic Tale by an extraordinary man called Mitch Gainey. I’m reproducing it here in full, as it appeared on Facebook:
“I like to think of the whole Christmas story as a cosmic tale;
Mary = the pure, willing subconscious mind. The Womb of Creation.
Joseph = The conscious mind; the personality.
Shepherds = Natural and created world.
Wise Men/Magi = spiritual perception/awareness
Angels = Intuition.
Herod = Empire, oppression, political consciousness. The collective shadow.
Jesus = Embodied Creativity, Divinity manifested in (Hu)Man, New Creation.”
This wise interpretation encouraged me to place the characters of the story on the Tree of Life. What follows is my view of this Cosmic Tale, seen in Kabbalistic terms.
The personalities are represented on the central column, while the side pillars represent the archetypes: the transpersonal, personal and instinctive levels all acting on the Creative process as the Divine presence enters this world.
Mary (at Tiferet) is the chalice that receives the Holy Spirit/Christ Child, as the “Womb of creation”. The Christ Jesus incarnates, supported from the side pillars by the angelic hosts, and greeted by the Magi, who represent those among us who are already spiritually present. It is worth bearing in mind that these three “kings”, led by a star (which may symbolise astrology or, more generally, any true spiritual tradition) have travelled many miles to this humble manger. Yet the people right nearby at the local inn have no clue what’s going on!
Joseph, like his biblical namesake, represents the ideal Yesod. Kabbalists often see Yesod (ego) in negative terms, but it is vital if we are to survive in this physical world. In protecting Mary in her vulnerable state, Joseph represents Yesod as a properly functioning and true servant.
These two together bring Jesus into the world, bringing Keter into Malkhut, and will guide him to adulthood, full spiritual awareness.
Herod represents worldly aspirations, and the fear of annihilation that the body (and, indeed, the fragmented ego) fear most. He is the worldly king, shadow to the now embodied Divine King.
Let’s try to understand Herod, before we condemn. He is the king of the material world and he knows of nothing beyond it. Although born to a Jewish faith, and surrounded by Roman symbols of divinity, for him God is more concept than reality. This is true of most people, even those who regard themselves as religious. For Herod, anything new, especially a newly born “king”, is a threat to his peace of mind and his worldly status. As Michael Gainey points out, Herod represents the collective shadow, which will always try to destroy what it fears.
Finally Jesus, the embodied and transcendent Divine, symbolised in the form of a baby, representing the potential in all of us to embody Christ-consciousness in our lives.
Christmas is a beginning. It is the birth of a new day, year, life, in which the Divine can enter the world more fully, held by a universe of support. Just as the Angelic hosts heralded the birth of the Christ Child, so they are there for each of us to call on anytime. The Magi might take all sorts of forms for each of us: the right person who appears for us just when we need them. They bring us the gold, frankincense and myrrh that symbolise the prosperity that is always available when we call for it. And the shepherds’ patient waiting and watching over it all is instinctively present within each of us, guiding us day to day.
So, may this year bring us closer to our Divine Self, the Christ within, and may we come closer to knowing with confidence that The Resurrection and the Life is within us all.