It's Christmas Eve, and I have a confession: I love Jesus. Few people know this about me. I rarely share this with others, largely because the Jesus of Christianity does not resemble what Jesus means to me.
There are, of course, the deeply homophobic and right-wing strands of
Christianity that brandish Jesus as a sword. When he is used to condemn others, as if he were standing as a judge and arbiter of a person's worth or ranking in society or access to the afterlife, I don't recognize him at all. When I hear people use the word "Christ" as a weapon of mass alienation, it feels to me like Jesus is just a rhetorical device, not something they feel in their hearts.
But there's also something about the way even the most loving and passionate folks who talk about Jesus that doesn't always resonate with me. It took me a long time to figure out my discomfort, and it's because I don't worship Jesus. I don't regard him as a figure to put on a mantle or altar as a proxy for God; I don't have any crosses or images of him in my home. Somehow, even their talk of devotion carries with it a sprinkle of proselytism. It's as if their need to declare their devotion to Jesus were an attempt to prove the validity of their choice of spiritual worship. On occasion, there's still a whiff of that belief that they are "saved" because they love Jesus, and if you don't, well . . .
I'm sure I run the same risk here, even with all of my caveats. Rather than an object of worship, for me Jesus is something more like a spiritual companion or guide. When he appears to me in meditation or dreams, it's as if he were there to gently remind me to move ever closer to who I really am, and to who each of us really is: a state of unconditional love. As a paradigm to be emulated, he seems to ask: can you look at the world through the eyes of unconditional love? In that regard, he inspires me to shed parts of myself that are inauthentic, petty or fearful, and to embrace and act on unconditional love.
Ultimately, what Jesus means to me is that by simply being alive, we are already divine. What do I mean by "divine"? The mere fact of being alive means that our worthiness is non-negotiable; our existence and value as living beings are not up for debate; our existence on this planet needs no justification or defense.
Jesus is not alone in playing this role for me, or for others. Amma, Mother Meera, and Sai Baba are other figures who equally represent our human potential. Each of them has inspired people to reach a state of love and peace that they cannot otherwise achieve on their own. They inspire us to return home to who we really are, beneath our fears and anxieties.
The picture that accompanies this blog post captures what Jesus means to me -- that there is not one, but many iterations of Jesus. In fact, all of us are Jesus (or Amma or Sai Baba . . . ). The cross is not a symbol of pain or sacrifice, but of our shared potential to surrender to our true nature and our deepest callings. Like the diversity of the human experience, Jesus comes in many forms, sizes, and colors. That image might be helpful as you look upon the people surrounding you at this time of year. Whatever your beliefs, remember that each of them is just as equally worthy as anyone else of all that life has to offer.