At Christmas time the expectations for increased enjoyment are high, but how many of us actually experience more happiness during the holiday? Financial strain, endless shopping, the pressures of entertaining, and the general stress of the season can all contribute to a rather less than merry Christmas for many.
Anyone who watches TV over the Christmas period will be used to seeing helpline details frequently flash across the screen. Depression is an all too common problem as the holiday culminates in a huge anticlimax. And then it’s back to work again.
Should it really be like that? Celebrating Christ’s birth, such a great personality, the saviour of so many, surely that should be a joyful occasion – perhaps even a time to remember and more carefully follow his directions. But what were those directions? Did he, or indeed any true religious teacher, say that we should increase worldly pleasure without limit, glut our senses with a blithe disregard for any scriptural regulation? And all of this in Christ’s own name?
Perhaps this is the problem, a distinct lack of holiness in our “holy days”. When I went to my local church on Christmas Eve there was no shortage of pew space, but it was impossible to find a parking spot at the shopping mall. Rather than being a time of festive, spiritual joy, Christmas has largely become an empty celebration of the flesh, heightening the disappointment and despondency that always follows excessive material enjoyment.
Essentially every religious message is the same; this life is not the all in all, awaken your eternal self by cultivating spiritual consciousness. Lead a godly life; thereby you will go to God and experience endless joy, whereas a hellish life will take you quite somewhere else. Certainly this was Christ’s teaching and no doubt he would have liked his birth celebrated by a demonstration of the godliness he advocated.
Of course, we want to enjoy and holidays are meant to be enjoyable, but how can that best be achieved? The Bhagavad-gita, whose teachings are not dissimilar to Christ’s, tells us that the path of spiritual life is greatly joyful – beyond anything we can imagine. Keep our minds fixed always on the Lord and we will soon begin to feel that joy.
Religious festivals provide an opportunity to give our spiritual lives a boost, as we go to the temples and churches and remember the divine. Sadly though, over time this religious dimension of Christmas has been eroded and all but lost, as commercial consumerism has driven us toward ever more intensified materialism.
Why though should we allow ourselves to be victims of such untrammelled greed? Why not have a really merry Christmas this year? Instead of eating and drinking ourselves into a stupor, glued to a TV screen, we could take advantage of the time off to chant the Lord’s name and meditate on his divine instructions and acts. Go to our place of worship and joyfully celebrate the life of the Lord’s pure servant, Jesus Christ. Then we will surely find the happiness we are hoping for this holiday.