Is there a Santa? Does he drink Coca-Cola?
Tis the night before Christmas and we are surrounded by images that kindle deep feelings, but of what? We barely know, the reaction to the image happens so quickly. As angels don’t need wings, the images that represent the vast majesty and mystery of the Winter Solstice; the emergence of something completely new, the birth of the Christ, not some mythic image in the sky, rather our highest capacities, embodied and touching others, are often hidden by the surface icon. So often we react mechanically to the image and miss this spirit that animates.
Century after century our storybook images got all mixed up. What we call Christ or Buddha isn’t the man, Jesus or Gautama, any more that Santa fits down chimneys. (See how commercial illustrators and Coca-Cola etched the contemporary image of Santa above in the 1930's. https://www.coca-colacompany.com/stories/coke-lore-santa-claus. Before this image Santa looked like a Catholic Bishop, elf or sprite.)
When we say Buddha, we naturally think of the Indian prince, Gautama Siddhartha, who reached enlightenment in the sixth century BC, and who taught the spiritual path followed by millions all over Asia, known today as Buddhism. Buddha, however, has a much deeper meaning. It means a person, any person, who has completely awakened from ignorance and opened to his or her vast potential of wisdom. A Buddha is one who has brought a final end to suffering and frustration, and discovered a lasting and deathless happiness and peace.
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
That awakening, in all of us, is what we celebrate this eve. The birth of Christ, symbolized by the birth of a child, is similar to the way wings represent nonmaterial spirit painted as angles on cathedral walls. Nonmaterial forms do not need wings. The birth of Christ, as a human baby, represents this awakening and opening of our own potential for wisdom - in action, today and every day. And what is this action? Compassion, empathy, kindness and concern for the wellbeing of others, nurturing and altruism. Push back the white beard and big belly, isn’t that what all the fuss is about? Isn’t that the spirit that animates the gifts and the songs? It is this timeless spirit that animates and reincarnates Santa in each of us this winter’s eve. We are Santa and we are Christ being reborn moment by moment. Peace and goodwill are inner states that express outwardly as relationship. The awakening and development of that inner state, the highest each of us can be, is what we celebrate. At least, this is what I celebrate this eve.
The mystic sees directly what lays hidden to a mind enchanted by image and concept. Like Rip Van Winkle waking-up from the image, only then do we see what lays behind, that spirit that animates. In that awake moment we experience something the image can never be. We touch something real and become more alive. Feeling this deeply, we are filled, bursting with care, affection and the joy these bring, and can’t help singing - Hallelujah.
"I don't know what to do!" cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath; and making a perfect Laocoön of himself with his stockings. "I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world,” cried Scrooge.
Look deep, with care and attention, and with that extra attention transform each image into a window that reveals the spirit that animates – especially what each reveals about ourselves and what we all can be. Hallelujah.