I love the symbols of Christmas! This festive season is full of them! Here are some that I picked up over the years.
Twelve Symbols of Christmas
It is not a coincidence that the Christmas story takes place near the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice–the darkest time of the year–since it is a story of light coming into the darkness.
The solstice is like a camera shutter that closes slowly until December 21. In the middle of the night, it begins to open again. It’s the end of one picture and the beginning of a new picture. Light spiritually and emotionally brings us into higher levels of consciousness. Light is knowing and awareness, making us ready for the new picture.
Birth is an one of the more important symbols of Christmas. It symbolizes a new beginning. In many ancient cultures, the solstice is the new year. The first Christmas began a new age for humanity. Even to the Mayans, the time of Jesus’s historical birth was a new era (the beginning of the second Pachacuti).
Darkness is sleeping, and with the new light, it is time to wake up. Birth is a wake up. Jesus came as an invitation to Christ Consciousness, best described as oneness in the present moment. We cannot miss the boat on this one. We have the chance, and will have the chance, to re-create ourselves every day and every moment. Also, we get the chance again and again, eternally. (Doesn’t that just take the load off?)
Birth is creation awakening. Babies are pure innocence of a soul ready to receive Spirit. Birth represents new life. A new story can be written, starting fresh and whole. A clean slate. When we die to our selves, we are reborn into Christ Consciousness. The death of the small “s” self is the death of our ego. (The ego represents fear, guilt, stuck-ness, separation, and victimhood.) Jesus showed us how to transcend by being kind, patient, faithful, connected, and inclusive.
“From our soul’s perspective, the significance of Jesus is that 2,000 years ago he introduced into the Near-Eastern world an unprecedented (for that place and time) new capacity for an inner birth of a deeply personal, intimate experience of Spirit.” Jean Raffa of Matrignosis Blog.
Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. The three kings. Three overcomes duality. A necessary broadening of “this or that” thinking that bring us out of our black and white ego and into higher consciousness where this AND that AND everything belongs.
The star represents the celestial presence of divinity, hope, and light. Anyone can see stars. They draw everyone without distinction.
I always love stars. Even the far reaches of the cosmos are connected to each one of us through light. This light comes from unimaginable distances into our retina and become part of us.
We can depend on the stars to point us in the right direction, as they have for eons of our ancestors. If we have our eyes open and desire their guidance, they’ll show us the way, but we have to walk the journey.
“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” Matthew 2:10
The star is familiar. And usually Spirit comes to us in what is familiar. It is easier to take. That’s why we have spirit guides in the forms of animals, people, and even our loved ones that have passed on. Because everything is God, God can come to us in any way. Familiar things are easier for our human minds to understand.
It takes light to know light. The stars are just reflections of our inner light. We all have it. Yes, you, too!
The Christmas lights remind us. Sitting with a candle every day reminds us of the stars and our connection to everything!
When you get out into the desert you discover two things. 1) It is not as bad as you thought and you’re doing OK. 2) It is as bad as you thought but you have the skills to make it. Laurence of Arabia (may not be verbatim)
The three kings represent our spiritual journey. We are looking for peace happiness, joy. We are looking for God because we think we are separate and long to be connected. God is right in front of us, but we look high and low; we keep making mistakes and coming closer. We go through all kinds of complexities on our journey, but in the end, I think, we realize it’s just the love inside us that we seek.
“They found what they were looking for and so will we.” Jim Callan
Three kings came from far off to see Jesus. They thought they were coming to see a king, but they found a vulnerable and poor baby.
“The essence of God is not power- it is vulnerable love.” Jim Callan
Kings are representative of masculine power; a poor baby is the opposite. Defenseless. No threat. Total peace. Our journey is not about finding and holding traditional power but learning that we don’t need to be afraid of being vulnerable.
Jesus is born between an ox and a donkey. In his life, he sits between prostitutes and tax collectors, and he died between two robbers. This is a powerful statement that he is not above anyone else and that all is forgivable. In Jesus’s genealogy, he has gentile blood. His ancestors are public sinners.
“He is a mixed bag, just like us. And so he welcomes us all without distinction.” Jim Callan
The shepherds also represent the poor.
Our mind is always searching for answers to what we experience. This is how we sometimes get in our own way. We don’t need answers to be in Christ Consciousness. In fact, it helps me when I choose humility and say, “I don’t know what this means. Please show me what I need to know.” It relieves me of the pressure and suffering and often misunderstandings of figuring things out.
When they see the baby, the kings spontaneously wanted to give. When you are with love, you want to be generous. Our modern Santa Claus is based on St. Nicholas of Myra from the fourth century, who was generous with children and the poor, buying them what they needed. Around the 12th century, an official church holiday was created in his honor on the anniversary of his death on December 6. The day became
a day for gift giving and charity.
Later, St. Nicholas became Sinterklaas of Dutch lore who rode on a white horse putting small treats in children’s shoes.
8. Sleigh and Reindeer
New York City, formerly known as New Amsterdam, which had a large Dutch influence in the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries, chose St. Nicholas to be their patron saint in 1804. Dutch colonists brought their traditions of Sinterklaas with them and once here, the Anglican name of Santa Claus was born.
Santa did not ride a sleigh pulled with reindeer until 1821. (The idea was born in a poem published by an unknown author in New York called “A New Year’s Present.”)
Sleighs pulled by reindeer are used by the Samí people in Scandinavia. In reality, of course, they don’t fly.
Reindeer are amazing animals. They can survive extreme cold and work well in groups. I think we can take a lesson from these amazing creatures.
9. Evergreen trees
In many ancient cultures around the world, evergreen trees symbolize eternal life, protection and good things to come. Many cultures have used a decorated tree or branch in or outside their house to scare away the devil or hope for good luck or a good harvest.
I heard once that the difference between us and angels were that angels don’t have free will. Obviously I don’t know if this is true, but it is food for thought. It would be so freeing to not have to figure anything out to learn how to use our agency for love. They can just love without fear and guilt. That is what we aspire to do.
There are a heck of a lot of songs devoted to these holidays! Music and dance is a big part of ritual and celebrations in many cultures all over the world. It is because it opens us up to Spirit in nonverbal ways bypassing all of the blocks our minds put in place. It opens the heart chakra. Singing helps us breathe, and both breathing and singing helps us heal.
This needs no explanation. We love because we want to be connected. Connected to ourselves, to our families, communities and connected to the earth, too.
What is your favorite of the symbols of Christmas?
Sending you love and peace this holiday season, until next week…
*This was inspired by Jim Callan’s homily from 1/6/13.