[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
The usual way that Susan and I [this was written during Robert’s marriage to Susan] “do” Christmas is very interesting. She dives in and I check out. She storms the malls and I go into hiding. I start out wishing the whole thing would just go away, and then simply weather the storm until, come the 26th, it does. Susan has a somewhat more positive (even exuberant) attitude about the holiday season, but still comes away with deep doubts about its meaning and value. For ten years now we have been talking about finding a different way to celebrate, yet have never come up with anything. I suspect we are not too different from many others.
As it turns out, A Course in Miracles has quite a bit to say about celebrating Christmas. It begins by flatly stating that we don’t know how. “This is the season when you would celebrate my birth into the world. Yet you know not how to do it” (T-15.X.1:5-6). Strangely enough, it says this in the middle of talking about how we try to find magnitude in the little gifts of the world, gifts which we try to extract from others by sacrificing ourselves for their sake, by “giving” to them. As far as I can see, the Course does not tie this scenario into our celebration of Christmas, but one sure wonders if this was not in the author’s mind.
The solution to our ignorance of how to celebrate Christmas is very simple: “Let the Holy Spirit teach you…” (T-15.X.1:7). How, then, does He teach us to celebrate Christmas? He asks us to accept a holy instant. In the midst of all our frenzied preparations, we let go of our sacrifice-based mentality, we enter into the stillness of the present moment and let the Christ be born in us.
Saying that we should celebrate Christmas by accepting a holy instant is very interesting, because the original Christmas was a holy instant. In fact, the Course uses the term “the time of Christ” to mean both “Christmas” and “the holy instant.”
There is a beautiful simplicity in this: Christmas was a holy instant; therefore, we celebrate Christmas by accepting a holy instant. We celebrate Christmas by repeating it. Does this not make perfect sense? What else would be a true celebration of any event, but allowing that event to be repeated inside of us? Why would we play the role of distant onlookers who can only throw an absentee birthday party for the baby Jesus, when we can play the role of Mary herself and allow the Christ Child to be born in us? Rather than inviting Jesus into our nativity scenes, sleigh rides and eggnog, we should invite him into our hearts:
Welcome me not into a manger, but into the altar to holiness, where holiness abides in perfect peace (T-15.III.9:6).
This is the only gift that Jesus wants from us. He does not need our praise and adulation, our solemn songs and flowery prayers. Rather than having us celebrate his release, he wants to celebrate our release (T-15.X.1:7). “The only gift I can accept of you is the gift I gave you” (T-15.X.1:8). He joined with us; in return, he wants us to join with him. He gave us our release; he wants us to accept our release and so give him the gift of our release. And we give these gifts and receive them in the same way: by experiencing the holy instant.
The Course actually has several suggestions for how we experience the holy instant:
“Learn that you must be worthy of the Prince of Peace…” (T-15.III.8:4).
How can we truly accept Jesus into our inner altars unless we believe he belongs there? Yet we only need be open to this possibility. For it is only when we experience him within us that we will really believe we are great enough to deserve him. “My birth in you is your awakening to grandeur” (T-15.III.9:5).
“This Christmas, give the Holy Spirit all that would hurt you” (T-15.XI.3:1).
I can’t get over this line. I keep seeing this incongruous image of a typical Christmas commercial with Santa barrelling through the snow on an electric shaver, only it concludes with the line, “This Christmas, give the Holy Spirit all that would hurt you.” To apply this beautiful guidance, we must simply watch our minds during this holiday season for all those beliefs that hurt us—beliefs that the stores, fellow shoppers, traffic, family members and Christmas turkeys are not properly fulfilling their assigned roles; beliefs that we are the oppressed victims of social expectations and the commercial mentality; beliefs that we have sound justification for not being at peace. And when we find these beliefs, we simply turn them over to the Holy Spirit, so that He can remove them from our holy minds.
“Let us join in…demanding no sacrifice of anyone…” (T-15.XI.8:2).
This means we make no inner (or outer) demands that anyone fulfill our expectations, especially any requirements that they pay us back either for something “bad” they did to us or something “good” we did for them. Releasing others from their past and from our expectations is one of the primary ways we can experience the time of Christ.
“Learn now that sacrifice of any kind is nothing but a limitation imposed on giving” (T-15.X.2:6).
We think we need to buy the love of others by sacrificing for them. In asking us to challenge this belief the Course is not asking us to stop giving. It is saying that sacrifice is not giving. It is only when we temporarily suspend our belief in sacrifice and enter into the holy instant that true giving becomes possible.
In closing, I want to stress that the Course is not giving a certain prescription for how to celebrate Christmas on the outside. It is telling us how to experience it on the inside. We celebrate Christmas by repeating Christmas, by letting it occur again in us, by responding to its holy instant with a holy instant of our own. Is it not ironic that we throw a worldwide noisy, busy party in celebration of a silent, holy instant? Yet we can experience our own holy instant even with all of the holiday hoopla whirling around us. Perhaps there is no time in which we need it more. The beauty of it all is that we can experience Christmas in the middle of and even in spite of the Christmas season.