Christmas has always been a magical time for me. From the earliest days of my childhood it has represented a kind of transcending joy that overtakes my whole body, and, indeed, my whole life.
And it wasn’t just because of the presents, either. Sure, getting gifts at Christmas made an impression on me as a child, there’s no question about it. But there was something else going on, too. Something was “in the air,” and I could feel it.
I remember thinking, as a small boy, how different people were at holiday time. They seemed more cheerful somehow. More understanding, more accepting — and more forgiving, too.
Once, in a department store somewhere deep into December, I broke something. I don’t even remember what it was, but I will always remember the clerk’s reaction.
“Oh, that’s okay, sonny, don’t cry. It’s okay. No harm done. We’ll just get this right out of the way, and no one will worry about it. Merry Christmas, sweetheart. Merry Christmas!”
If that had been the 30th of August my parents would have been called and I would have been given “what for” about that. My Dad would have had to pay, and it would have been taken out of my allowance for a year.
So what is it that happens to us for three weeks in December that turns us into incredibly warm-hearted human beings? And what can we do to make it last past January 3rd?
“I wish it could be Christmas all year long!” I remember saying when I was seven. And, of course, it wasn’t the event that I wanted to see continue, it was the spirit.
So, what could cause that spirit to continue?
Well, first, I think we’d have to change the basis of The Christmas Story itself. Now this is something that some people may not want to hear, but the Christmas Story in its strictly religious form will not heal the world. It has not and it will not, and that should by now be clear to any objective observer.
I know that this may come as blasphemy in the midst of the Christmas season, but I think it is something that humanity has to face.
No religion that claims to be the One True Religion, and no path that is proclaimed to be the Only Path, can lead the whole of humanity to an experience of itself AS a whole. And unless we can experience ourselves as a whole, as One, we will have missed the point of all religions.
The reason that Christmas has such a wonderful effect on so much of humanity in the Western world, at least, is not because it commemorates the birth of the one being said to be the Savior of all humankind, but because it gives birth again in our hearts to a thought, an idea, which we instantly recognize as the only thought that can save humankind: Peace on Earth, good will to all people everywhere.
It is the Christmas wish, it is the Christmas promise, that unites millions, not simply or only the secular Christmas Story as it has been told for hundreds of years.
And so, perhaps it is time to do the unthinkable, and bring true joy to the world. Perhaps it is time to create a new Christmas Story: the story of the birth of God’s son and daughter in the person of all of us. This can also be the story of the birth of the baby Jesus, born to Mary and Joseph in a manger under the star of Bethlehem, the angels of heaven rejoicing at his coming, the kings of the orient traveling from afar at the news of his birth, and Heaven proclaiming for all to hear. But here, the story departs from the one that separates humanity into Christians and non-Christians.
The New Story can tell us that the Son of God was indeed born this day, and is born every day, every time a newborn baby cries. The New Story can tell us that Jesus Christ brought to the earth a striking example and a grander awareness than ever before of the Divinity of Every Living Being, and that through his birth and death we can all be reborn. Yes, born again as the holy expression of Divinity that not just one of us was, but that we all are.
In memory of this wondrous Son we shall joyously sing and merrily proclaim that none of us can ever be apart from God, because all of us are a part OF God. We are all Sons and Daughters of God, and the life of the one whose birth we celebrate at Christmas shall be a testimony to that truth—as shall your own life, should you follow his example and live his message of love for all, forgiveness for all, compassion for all, peace for all—even for those who would call themselves his enemies.
All of us on this earth want the same thing. All of us want peace and joy, happiness and security, safety for those we love, harmony with those with whom we share our earth, fulfillment of our life’s goals and dreams, and a gentle, soft departure when our time here is over. That is all that all of us want.
Now we must ask ourselves: How is it that nearly seven billion highly evolved, intelligent, sentient beings can desire the same thing and not be able to produce it? Do you think it is possible that there may be something we do not fully understand about Life and God and each other—the understanding of which would change everything?
The answer to that question can be the beginning of our New Christmas Story.
— Neale Donald Walsch