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Post by Admin Mon Nov 24, 2008 2:14 am

I thought that with Christmas Approaching I would post this talk which I used at the closing meeting of our Mission last year. Christmas and non denomenational Spiritualism is an interesting mix, sometimes hard to explain to newcomers. In fact our Mission is closed over the holidays so that the volunteer workers can get a break. I was prompted to put it up after someone attending our Mission was shocked when I said I was not a Christian I was a Spiritualist
Well we are fast approaching the Christmas season, a time when the difference between the material and the spiritual elements of our life are brought so starkly into view. Is Christmas about Santa Claus and presents, or is it really about Jesus Christ. How do those who do not regard themselves as Christians fit into the celebrations that are so prominent everywhere.

The reality is that, despite all the efforts that the churches make the primary image of the season is Santa Claus, the Pageants, presents and a huge Christmas Dinner. Carols by candlelight becomes light entertainment, not the midnight celebration of the birth of Jesus in the churches on Christmas Eve.

In some ways this was always likely to happen, from the time that, after the sacking of Rome by the Goths in 410ad, Bishop Augustine (now saint) was able to seize the opportunity to create a universal Christian religion based upon the Roman Empire. To achieve this successfully he oversaw the enfoldment of many pagan elements into Christian practice, to enable the new Church to encompass the old. So many elements of the pagan festivals became intertwined with the celebrations of this new church. Christmas, particularly in the Northern hemisphere, matched with the major feasts, celebrations and ceremonies around the rebirth of the sun on the shortest day of the year. It did not matter to this new organisation that the old records suggested Jesus was born somewhere nearer the Northern mid summer than the mid winter (indeed the star alignment supposedly on record is suggestive of a Birth even with a June date being possible)

So the celebrations for Christmas were bound up with the ancient festivities to bring enjoyment to the darkest time of the year. This was a time for the rebirth of all things, especially of that most essential ingredient, the Sun.

Then we began to build onto this an extra legend, that of Santa Claus. Yes, according to biblical tradition gifts were brought to Jesus but the whole tradition developed through a broader range of influences. The most obvious is the impact of the 4th Century Saint Nicholas of Myra (a Byzantium province). Saint Nicholas was a very pious Christian Bishop famous for his generosity to the poor.

Germany added to the history, with the pagan god Odin. The Germanic people had the Yule holiday when Odin, in legend, led great hunting parties through the sky. Children left carrots straw and sugar for Odin’s 8 legged “horse” to eat (leading to the reindeer myth) and be rewarded with presents. With the advent of Christianity the Odin myth and the Saint Nicolas myth became blended. These then spread into Holland through Sinter Klaas, from where it first entered the USA. In the USA the legend met the British Father Christmas, then, as depicted in the early illustrations in Dicken’s Christmas Carol (1843), a well nourished bearded man dressed in a long green fur trimmed robe.

Over the next 60 years he became Santa as we know him, now with the USA version adopted widely, as the model to follow. Indeed Coca Cola are credited with the final version, through a long advertising campaign designed by artist Haddon Sundblom, running from 1931 to 1964. Admittedly, the model chosen was one that had been drawn for Harpers Bizarre, in 1863, by Thomas Nast, a civil war cartoonist. Sundblom’s inspiration, in terms of character, was a poem called “A visit from St. Nicholas” written by Clement Clark Moore in 1822.

So this delightful, cheerful, chubby, chappie has stolen centre stage at Xmas. Clearly he has had an amazing amount of advertising expenditure to support him. In the commercial world almost everyone wants a piece of the Christmas action and the old guy in the red suit is the greatest salesman the world has ever seen, for all of them. Christianity cannot match this level of investment, to attract the interest of people, so it begins to be a side show at the time of its most important event.

Yet even Santa transcends the purely commercial, he manages to be involved in benevolent and charitable activities to spread the idea of sharing. As introduced by Dickens, as the spirit of Christmas Present, he brought through the concept of sharing and caring. In one way, or other, this moral fable, a Christmas Carol, will be seen on TV this year. As Dickens said in his preface to the 1843 first edition “I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it. Their faithful Friend and Servant, C.D. December, 1843.”

Yes it is a light story but the moral behind it, as ever with the underlying values of Charles Dickens, is to remind people of a greater value to Christmas than the purely commercial one. It is in this moral and Spiritual area where people’s thoughts should go, at least for a while at each Xmas. There is a beautiful story that arises from Xmas which everyone can share in. It is a story of the work and teachings of Jesus.

In some ways it is difficult for a Spiritualist to stand up and talk about this. It is essential to define how we can connect to Jesus.

Firstly it is important to understand those things which he never claimed for himself. He never claimed to have come to earth to save us, indeed it was Anshelm, the Arch Bishop of a, then Roman Catholic, Canterbury Cathedral who evolved this idea in the 11th Century, together with the concept of original sin.

The Greek Orthodox Church does not accept this view and has never done so. Instead it decided, in about 620ad, that Jesus so completely surrendered to God he became the first deified human being.

One of the biggest problems has been caused by the failure to accept that Jesus was a Jew. The words and deeds used by he and his followers have particular emphasis for them, for their religion and culture which has been completely misunderstood by outsiders. Jesus was born and died a member of the Jewish faith. An eminent writer in the USA, on theological matters and a recent presenter at the Harvard Divinity School, Karen Armstrong, has asserted, “After his death, his followers decided that Jesus had been divine. This did not happen immediately… the doctrine that Jesus had been God in human form was not finalized until the fourth century. The development of Christian belief in the Incarnation was a gradual, complex process. Jesus himself certainly never claimed to be God.” What Jesus said is he was human with a spark of the divine, just as we all are, what he achieved we can all aspire to.

Essentially, from everything we can understand, in the material that is available about his life, the signs show clearly that Jesus was a wonderful Teacher, Healer and Medium. A human being who became more than he could be by drawing strongly on the spark of the divine spirit within. He went on to exercise his power for healing, for inspiration, for words of compassion, wisdom and love.

The reality is that he did not come here for the purpose of saving us but to teach us to save ourself.

Yes the churches founded in his memory may be at odds with each other and fail to reflect his teachings. Yet this should not stop us from recognizing the power and truth in his statements and of his greatest commandment, “love God your Creator more than anything else” and “love all other people the same as you love yourself."

So the birth of Jesus can be a reminder of the teachings of spirit and of unconditional love. As such it transcends any one religion and we can all join in and celebrate the meaning of the birth of Jesus as a restatement of our underlying Spiritual values. The threads of the love in his words are the same as the threads within our seven principles.

Please have fun this year and may Xmas and the New Year be all that you wish but do take time out to reach in the silence for the love of spirit



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Post by zerdini Mon Nov 24, 2008 5:29 am

A timely reminder, Jim. It is a time when the veil between the two worlds is very thin due to the outpouring of thoughts and memories of those who have gone before.

In the Spirit World we are told, by many spirit teachers, that it is known as the Festival of Light which would seem to be very appropriate.



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Post by obiwan Mon Nov 24, 2008 12:14 pm

zerdini wrote:A timely reminder, Jim. It is a time when the veil between the two worlds is very thin due to the outpouring of thoughts and memories of those who have gone before.

In the Spirit World we are told, by many spirit teachers, that it is known as the Festival of Light which would seem to be very appropriate.

Interestingly: Hanukkah (Hebrew: חנוכה‎, alt. Chanukah), also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, and may occur from late November to late December on the Gregorian calendar.
(From Wikipedia)


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Post by iceblue Mon Nov 24, 2008 7:30 pm

I found that quite interesting,thanks Jim.Xmas to me is seeing my nanna,she comes down from qld,having yummo food with the family,spoiling my kids and taking a well earned break.Xmas in oz is our holiday season so its time to be festive and relax in the long summer heat.
I dont get into the religious side of it,but like Z says there seems to be a lot of family around and a xmas circle is usually run.
More than anything i look forward to getting away with the family,Duncan


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