As we approach Christmas, I am reminded of a spirited discussion about Jesus. It revolved around the question, “Did Jesus even exist?” Boy, did we stir up a hornets’ nest. One of the people in the discussion was a hard-core believer in his Christian path and that such a question was being entertained was blasphemous, making the rest of us profane heretics in his eyes. He went on a rant, seemingly furious at the world and those who did not follow what he believed. In a stream of consciousness, he opined that Jesus was God and that you must believe in that God to achieve salvation. If you didn’t, you were doomed to a fiery place forever with no second chances.
There was no meeting of the minds on an answer to that question. We left with no resolution and realized that no one was going to be persuaded to change his or her position. Any attempt to change minds would lead to further entrenchment of each person’s viewpoint.
Over time I discovered there have always been competing strands within the Christian movement. One strand has its origins in Gnosticism – a teaching based on the realization that we experience life according to our perception and that salvation is an internal process attained through enlightenment. This strand is part of the “Golden Thread” of the perennial philosophy dating back to the Wisdom Teachings of the Mystery Schools. The historical work of religious scholars such as Princeton Professor Elaine Pagels, author of Beyond Belief and The Gnostic Gospels, affirms this alternative approach of Christianity. Traditionalists have attempted to marginalize Gnosticism because of the threat it poses to their control and domination.
Perhaps a better question to ask is, “Isn’t what Jesus represents more important than whether or not he existed?” In the New Thought/Ancient Wisdom teachings, Jesus represents the Christ, which is that part of God within all of us. It is also God’s idea of humanity at its highest and best. This idea encompasses the consciousness of peace, love, compassion, joy and creativity. It is something that is within all of us as potential, our job being to live out that potential and bring it into our world.
The Christmas season is about the celebration of the birth of this Christ idea so that it becomes the activity of our consciousness. Even if one accepts the story of Jesus and his birth and his life to be true, the true power lies in how we integrate what he represented into our lives. In other words, to paraphrase that traditional Christian statement, even if the Christ presence is born a thousand times in Bethlehem, if that same presence is not born in us it has no meaning. What matters most is whether we make Jesus’ realizations while on Earth our own reality, too. When that happens, Jesus and all that he symbolizes is in fact real, whether he existed or not.
When we accept that, we celebrate the spirit of Christmas every day.
Peace and Blessings,