It’s Christmas Eve as I write this, and I thought it would be fun to start with a little history before delving into more spiritual thoughts.
“A Visit from St. Nicholas” is one of the world’s best-known poems. It starts,
“’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;”
This poem was written in 1823 by Clement Clarke Moore, a professor of theology in New York City. As a theologian he was, naturally, more interested in St. Nicholas than in the mouse. St. Nicholas was a fourth-century Christian bishop in present-day Turkey, known for secretly giving gifts to those in dire need.
Moore portrayed him as a “jolly old elf” with a sleigh and eight reindeer, sliding down chimneys and giving presents to children. This, of course, has become today’s iconic image of Santa Claus. But deep spiritual truths are often hidden within popular imagery.
Christmas Eve and the visit of a saintly presence hold important lessons. Two of them are the stillness of the moment before certain events, and the act of selfless giving.
It is almost as if the universe itself holds its breath before an important occasion such as the birth of a savior. Artists have long recognized the power of the moment just before the action, which is why Michelangelo depicts David standing motionless and focused, just before the fury of combat.
To find the Christ consciousness within, we, too, must become still. Individual waves of ego roil the surface of the ocean of spirit — rising, falling, and dying in a matter of moments. But the ocean itself is calm and eternal. To find our true Self, we must release our identification with our wave of individuality and realize that we are the ocean itself. God is not some distant entity, but the consciousness, our consciousness, that gives life to every atom in creation.
This connection cannot be felt while the mind and heart are agitated. Meditation is, in essence, a redirecting of prana from outer restlessness into inner stillness. And the moment before an event, Christmas Eve in this case, is when the universe is most supportive of that withdrawal.
The other important lesson of all sacred holidays is the ideal of giving. When self-offering is pure, removed from the marketplace of worldly thoughts, it becomes a pathway to Self-realization. When we give gifts to others, we lessen the grip of ego. Ultimately, we must give away everything, all that we have and all that we are. Then God can remake us in His own image. Yogananda stated it beautifully in a prayer-demand:
“Let every feeling that I have glow with Thy love. Let every act of my will be impregnated with Thy divine vitality. Let every thought, every expression, every ambition, be ornamented by Thee. O Divine Sculptor, chisel Thou my life according to Thy design!”