The birth of Christ is a symbolic story representing the birth of the heart. Its predicated upon people doing the right thing. Mary said yes to God. Joseph married Mary. The innkeeper found them a dry place to stay. Each person met the moment with the way of a wider good.
Mary and Joseph responded to a demand. Then they set in a direction not knowing what they would find along the way or if they would reach their destination. The apparent circumstance was a census, but outer events are never the cause or meaning of something spiritual. Mary, Joseph, and the census represent the demands of the heart as a compass. We do not know where the heart will lead us: what service or how kindness or cooperation will be called for. But in setting ourselves to the compass of the heart, we have offered ourselves to be called upon. The outer circumstances simply set the stage. The symbol of the census asks, “can we be counted among those who live the power of the heart?”
Mary represents the spiritual self pregnant with the Christ within. For all appearances, you and I are simply who we are. But not so; and with clairvoyant eyes, blatantly not so. Like the Greek icons of the Madonna and Christ, one’s outer appearance is a form of expression. In the icon, Mary expresses the actual potential to bring forward the inner divine nature. Without the womb and the protection of the unseen spiritual Beingness, the Christing heart – the Christ within – cannot manifest. You and I would simply remain incomplete personalities. But we don’t. We birth that which is innate and dynamically within.
She rides a donkey, an animal of servitude. Soul does too. Our personality is not meant to run the show but, instead, to understand its role. The personality is the servant to the soul (Mary) which is servant to the Highest Within. We are frolicking centaurs (half donkey, and half a person) when our personality holds sway and the Soul is not expressing.
Joseph represents steadfastness and fortitude. He keeps the donkey moving forward. Joseph symbolizes guidance in all its forms that is with us all the time.
The wise men did the right thing by not telling Herod where the baby was. It’s proper to keep a spiritual mystery sacred, protected from the profane. Joseph listened to his dream, and took Mary and the baby into Egypt. Like Joseph, we might choose to leave that which is not conducive to our spiritual growth. Doing so, we would leave situations that could potentially injure the birthing Christ consciousness. Choices such as not drinking, or gossiping about another person, or choosing to meditate instead of watch TV.
The birth of the Light within requires attendants. The shepherds represent our bodies and everyday life. Our physical body is the way through which the Word becomes flesh. This part of our self is intended to be the temple of the Lord, the Tabernacle of divine presence. As we learn to respect our body, we attend to the spirit within.
The Magi also attended the newborn inner Presence. The magi represent the highest and wisest within us, giving the gifts of lifetimes back to ourselves. In the language of Christians, the magi represent the Holy Trinity. To Buddhists, they represent the Three Jewels of: Buddha nature, the teachings of light, and shared life. They also represent body, speech, and mind. In the Trans-himalayan teachings, the three kings represent the soul in its majesty, the solar angel, and monadic essence. These three bear gifts to the incarnating Life and Light, honoring the depths to which Love must descend in order to bring Love into the world. And they represent the triplicity: atma, buddhi, and manas, the will of God, the love of God, and the understanding which God-ness gives.
Humanity also requires birth attendants. Everyone who recognizes the Light are these attendants. Yet, like the shepherds and the innkeeper they hold no elitism. Those who have symbolically been up to Bethlehem have experienced the birth of Love in their hearts. They know that all beings need sustenance and shelter. To these Christ-born, all are one and the same as themselves. With this layer of the symbolism, the wise men and the shepherds represent those who feel the struggle of humanity walking the long road to Bethlehem.
That road is archetypal. Many world scriptures tell of a journey back to the house of a king, back to the origins of our true lineage. We are all born of the King of Kings, innate universal divine presence. All share a divine heritage. Moses was put in a basket and floated down the River Nile to the house of Pharaoh, the king. Buddha’s mother, Maya, journeyed with her royal entourage from the palace of the rainy season to the palace of the sunny season. That palace was also the place of her birth and royal parentage. Joseph, born of the family of King David was called back to Bethlehem, the source of his lineage. Yet these stories are metaphors of our divine heritage. We are all descended from the King, the Almighty One which is Unwordable Pure Divine Essence. Equally so, the soul is the only begotten of the monadic ONE. Therefore, from both a macrocosmic or a microcosmic point of view, the road is archetypal. We are born from divine parentage, we are returning to the same. The journey is the Path of the heart.
Bethlehem means the house of bread. All will have plenty when each understands true need and no one takes more than is needed. More important, everyone will understand how little actually is needed to thrive and be happy. Bethlehem represents shelter and the need to be warm, protected, and secure. Bethlehem symbolizes food for the body, emotions, mind, and spirit. In the inner state of Bethlehem, everyone is nourished, sustained, and grows.
The Christmas story is simple, yet offers much. Each time a person awakens to the impulse of giving, Christ is born. When a person forgives, Christ is born. When a person sees another as equal or looks out to the world saddened at greed and poverty, war, starvation, and disease, Christ’s tears well up in that person’s eyes.
Joseph went up to Bethlehem to be counted in the census and we are called to be counted too. Almost all world scriptures give a number to the chosen. The number is, of course, symbolic. Yet to be counted is to be counted upon. The heart of humanity is birthing. You and I are every character in this mystery play. As such we have many opportunities to be counted among the chosen: those who have chosen the awakened heart.
graphic: On the Sacred Path by Lakandiwa on DeviantART