Why I celebrate Christmas

A lot of people who will celebrate Christmas this week are not Christians.

The Christian Church teaches that Jesus was the only son of God. Indeed, in the mystery of the trinity it is explained that he IS God. Christmas Day is to celebrate the miraculous birth of the son of God, who created the Universe. A lot of people who will celebrate Christmas this week do not believe this to be the case. A lot of them don’t believe Jesus existed at all.

Is this hypocrisy? I don’t think so. I used to. It means all that for a lot of people, but it also means a whole lot more. Its a time of rest, its a time to reunite families, its a time to celebrate many things.

I wouldn’t consider myself Christian any more, but I do love Christmas. You don’t have to be Christian to do so. But, I have found that the original story of Christmas might not be so irrelevant to those of us who might not go to Mass this weekend.

Alan Watts was a philosopher who studied all the world’s great religions, and helped introduce many Eastern philosophical ideas to the West. At one stage in his life he was also a Christian minister. He eventually left this path, not truly believing in the divinity of Jesus as the Christian Church believed it. But that’s not to say he did not believe in Jesus, nor his divinity. In later life he had a unique take on Christ

The real Good News is not simply that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, but that he was a powerful Son of God who came to open everybody’s eyes to the fact that you too are a powerful son or daughter of God. This is perfectly plain if you go to the tenth chapter of John, verse thirty where Jesus says, “I and the Father are One.”

Watts then explained that when Jesus said this, people threatened to stone him for blasphemy, to which Jesus replied:

“Is it not written in your law, ‘I have said you are Gods?’ If God called those to whom He gave His word Gods – and you cannot deny the scriptures – how can you say I blaspheme because I say I am a son of God?”

Watts continues

There is the whole thing in a nutshell. If you read the King James Bible – the version that descended with the angel – you will see that the words “I am the Son of God” are in italics. Most people think the italics are for emphasis, but they are not. The italics indicate words interpolated by the translators, and you will not find that in the Greek. It says “a son of God.” So here it seems to me perfectly plain that Jesus has it in the back of his mind that this is not something peculiar to himself when he says, “I am the way. No man comes to the Father but by me.” This “I am,” this “me,” is the divine us.

A central tenet of Watts philosophy, that he came to via a synthesis of Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism, was that the idea of people as individuals separate from the Universe, was a myth. He argued that when you really thought about it we were all connected with ourselves and the Universe, to a point where we can consider ourselves extensions of the Universe itself (I’ve pointed before to similar ideas from people like Carl Sagan and Bill Hicks).

And Watts found it in Christianity too.

We must see Christ as the great mystic, in the proper sense of the word. A mystic is not someone who has all sorts of magical powers and understands spirits and so on. A mystic is one who realizes union with God. This seems to me the crux and message of the gospel. It is summed up in the prayer Saint John records Jesus speaking over his disciples: “May you be one, even as the Father and I are one, that you may be all one.” May we all realize this divine sonship or daughtership or oneness, this basic identity with the eternal energy of the universe, the love that moves the sun and other stars

That’s why I celebrate Christmas. It is Jesus’s birthday, and he, like all of us, was a child of the Universe. He just knew it.

“The cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”

Carl Sagan
The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean (1980) – Cosmos (Episode 1)

Alan Watt’s quotes from “Jesus – his religion, or the religion about him?” taken from “Myth and Religion”