How do you write the word Christmas?
My daughter Carly Elizabeth, an authentic seven years young, asked, “How do you write the word Christmas?” “Easy,” I said, “Christmas, is two words. Christ and Mass.” Describing, as I etched each letter, “Christ is a name we give to a quality that you feel inside, like love or anger, that changes how you relate to everything. Christ is the best feeling a person can have about themselves and the world. An explosion of goodness fills you up and touches everything you touch. That inner feeling, like a bright light of love inside, is the Christ spirit or light.” Copying my scribble, “Can everyone feel that?” she asked. “Sure,” I said. “Discovering that light inside is the most important challenge we all have in our life. That is why we celebrate this best possible feeling, and we call that celebration a Mass.” Carefully drawing each letter, Carly looked up, “Is Mass like a birthday party?” Yes, a party that celebrates the awakening or the birth of this light in each of us.”
I went on to describe how the same is true for Santa. Like Greek myths, people made up stories to describe the creative forces of nature, including different feelings or qualities each of us has or might have, like the feeling of goodness we call Christ. To describe in their stories what the feeling of love or joy, anger or strength acts like, storytellers created a person or character who had that quality. Neptune, the God of the oceans, with its awesome power and strength, or Athena, the Goddess of love, are good examples.
Sometimes writers use colors to describe how a person is feeling and acting - blue for sad, or red for mad. “That sad person is feeling blue,” we say. The same is true for Santa. Santa is a character in a story that describes the inner feelings we have when a person loves to make children feel safe and happy. The character called Santa was older because older people often have more experience. The character is fat and jolly because this is what people are expected to look like when they aren’t hungry, thin, and poor. Being older, they know what is really important, like being sure children feel loved, safe and happy. As the Goddess Athena expresses the love we all feel, Santa shows how all the inner feelings and qualities that a wise person, who has everything he or she needs, relates to children. Because they know that making children happy is the best way to make the world happy.
When any person is filled with feelings of goodness, that changes how they see themselves and that feeling of goodness touches everything, we say that person is Christ. In the same way, when any person feels that making children happy is the best way to make the world happy, that person becomes a Santa. First came the inner feeling. Next, storytellers created a person or character that shows how the world looks when that inner feeling touches everything, and then they gave that inner feeling a name, Santa. The truth is, every person who feels that making children happy is the best way to make the world happy becomes a Santa. Like the word love, Santa is a name given for that special feeling. Whenever a person feels that special feeling they are Santa.
In some ways, Santa and Christ share many of the same feelings. When these beautiful feelings explode inside it feels like something new is being born. There is a time each year when the whole world begins something new. The ending of one cycle and the birth of the next is called the Winter Solstice, and that moment was chosen long ago as the birthday celebration of the inner feelings we call Christ exploding in each of us. And that feeling shares its wisdom and love like Santa, magically making children happy and safe.
That inner feeling is the magic light that flies all over the world like Santa’s sleigh. Like Cinderella being touched by a fairy’s magic wand, that special feeling flies down chimneys and lights up the heart of everyone. In that instant, that special feeling changes everyone into Santa’s helper. They become Santa. That magic light is very real, as real, and as powerful as the sun, and it transforms everyone and everything it touches. So, yes, like Christ there is a Santa inside each of us and it is our job to discover what that light feels like every day.
The Mass in Christmas is a birthday celebration to remind everyone how important this is.
I return each winter when the moon is full
and the stars shine bright in the black sky.
I return to a quiet place that has been
in the heart and soul of humanity - forever.
The heavens stand still for
in this quiet place, I’m sure we all feel.
The ever-present cycle of birth, growth, blossoming,
the wisdom of autumn and death of each heartbeat,
breath, each cell, organ, limb, body, tree,
mountain, planet, and galaxy dancing the dance
of transformation and renewal,
we are reminded of in this quiet place.
Strange how the ancient mind pictured this
timeless cycle of living-dying.
Like the Egyptians and Greeks the pre-medieval
mind whispered stories to embody and carry forward
this reverence that we feel.
The cross traversing the perfect circle,
dividing the heavens into four seasons,
of that, they made into a symbol of pain
which is what we see today.
And of that ever-new, transcendent spirit,
that force that is born again and again
and again each moment, of that they cast
into an image of ‘a’ man,
which is what we see today.
The metaphysical gifts of love, affection,
they made into toy trains, iPods, and silk ties.
But that transcendent spirit called Christ
pushing the blade of grass through the concrete
of our conditioning remains in this quiet place
that I’m sure we all feel.
The mystic sees what lays hidden from the mind
enchanted by its symbols and its images,
that eternal sea of light turning and churning
behind the stories, we tell on this winter’s eve.
May you stop as the heavens do each year
and stand in the mystery that casts this spell
as it has done forever and will forever.
May it touch you, nay pierce you like
lightning bolt – and in that stunned-timeless moment
see the miracle that you are
and will always be.
That is the meaning of our winter tale.