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Rejoice in the Lord
by Swami Krishnananda

(Spoken on Christmas Eve 1995.)

Everywhere and at all times in the process of human history there has been an expectation for what may be called 'a great coming'. Every heart expects the coming of a future glory, a betterment in the future in some way or the other. There is a hope for what is more than oneself, what is above oneself, greater than oneself, such that the movement of human life in general has been a never-ending quest for what has not been seen in the world, and perhaps what can never be seen in this world.

There is an upsurge of longing from the heart of the whole world, as it were, to receive a call that is beyond itself. We live by our expectations, our hopes and our longings. We are not alive because we are just contented with what we are or what we have. We are alive because in our hearts there is something which is more than what we are and more than what we have. This is a perpetual tendency to transcend oneself, to never be satisfied with anything, not even by one's best achievements. The greatest achievements fall short of human expectation. This higher than oneself, or what is above oneself, above the world itself, is what is beckoning everyone, not only in human history but also in the total natural evolution which perpetually hurries forward, with no cessation of effort. There is a continuous movement of all creation towards a destination which may be regarded as the expectation of the great coming of  That from where creation arose. There are little expectations and larger expectations, but even the littlest expectation arises above one's present predicament. If you are fully satisfied with what you have or what you are, there need not be any expectation of any kind. You need not hope for anything. You need expect nothing if everything is all right as it is presented to you in your daily life.

The world embosoms within itself a travail, a kind of agonising pain, for the birth of a 'beyond'. It is not the coming of what is already visible to our eyes; it is the entry into the visible phenomena of the world, and of all humanity, of what is not anywhere to be seen in human history or anywhere in natural history. In religious parlance we may call it God coming into our hearts. 'God coming' is a wonderful statement and a beautiful passage to be repeated as a mantra, as it were. Wonderful it is to repeat these words 'God coming'. What happens when God comes? The earth rejoices. In the spring season, nature, with all its foliage, rejoices in its greenery, in its foliage, and in its beauties. The rise of the sun is a great expectation of nature, who is the life of everyone.

The restlessness of humanity is the indication of the coming of what is going to redress humanity of its grievances. We have been told again and again of the birth, or the advent, of the great one whose coming we are observing today in this function called Christmas. This coming was the response of God to the cry of man—M capital, humanity as a whole. This is why Christ has often been called the Son of Man. Everyone in the world is the son or daughter of some man or some woman, but this is the son of another kind of man, the representative of mankind or humanity, standing as an eternal response to the cry of the agonies of mankind, in every sense of the term. It is the cry of the mortal for the immortal. Mortality infects every little nook and corner of this world. Death pervades everywhere with its open jaws and dark claws. Perishability is the nature of all things. Nothing stands for a moment. Everything moves towards its destruction. Destruction for what purpose? It is for shedding the encrustations of mortality covering the soul of the individual, for opening of the avenues by which the soul can stand by itself in its pristine purity. In order that the human soul may receive the grace of That which beckons and summons all life, it has to purify itself in a manner commensurate with the purity of God Himself.

In the personality, life, and sayings of Christ, we have the purity that is characteristic of God's nature. It is not merely ethical or moral purity. God is good, not because He is ethically good or morally good, but because He is God; and, therefore, He is good. The goodness of God is not the goodness of morality, servicefullness and social activity. God is not a social person. There is no society around Him. He stands alone by Himself.

In Milton's Paradise Lost there is a passage of Adam weeping before God. “Thou, Great One, has created companions, friends and relations for all creatures in the world. You have not given me a companion. I am suffering with my loneliness.” God, in the language of Milton, replies, “Adam, you know that I am alone. I have no friends; I have no relations. Do you consider Me to be unhappy?” How would you explain this situation where I am totally alone and and you are saying that I am perfectly happy? How would a person be alone, unbefriended, unrelated, unconnected, and be happy? How is it possible? Only Christ, Jesus, can answer this question.

Jesus Christ had no friends. He had no relatives. He had no companions. There was no one who could befriend him. But happiest was this veritable Incarnation of that Supreme Aloneness whom we call God Almighty. The Alone that is the Spirit represented in the personality of Christ is a historical demonstration before every one of us of how we have to live in order that we may expect a ray of the blessing of God. Unless an element of godliness is present in us, how would God descend into us? We expect God to enter into a basket of rubbish. The vessel has to be cleaned. It has to be fragrant like a scented opened receptacle. If hearts filled with totally unspiritual longings expect God's coming, naturally God will come to them also, but by bringing a thunderbolt into their lives, by devastating their mortal expectations and making them die first before they live for God.

Christ is said to have died for the mortal sins of mankind. God did not destroy the whole humanity for its errors and sins. He sent a symbol of Himself which could embody in itself the errors, the faults and the sins of the total mankind so that, as Christian theology tells us, in this crucifixion and death of one personality, the sins of mankind have been wiped out. This is what we hear in Christian tradition.

There is a lot of meaning in this traditional belief, which is highly spiritual and mystical, to mention the least. The anointed one is the Christ, the purified one is the Christ, the representation of God is the Christ. That is why he is called the Incarnation of God. 'Incarnation' means God made into flesh. God became mortal in form, and therefore the mortal aspect of this form had to end in the manner in which all mortal forms end.

The celebration of the coming of Christ is not to be taken in a mere jovial spirit of merrymaking. We say it is a Merry Christmas. Yes, of course it is true that Christmas is merry, but it should be a merry occasion to the soul of persons, not to our sense organs, not to our social instincts. Let the soul feel the merry occasion has come. It shall rejoice. Let the soul rejoice, not the hands and feet with their physical dancing. That is not the real merrymaking. The spirit in man has to rejoice in the blessedness of God. You have sung just now the great song 'Rejoice in the Lord'. Can you rejoice in the Lord, or are you rejoicing in what pleases the sensations, the idiosyncrasies or the weaknesses of human nature which, when they are fed abundantly, look like an occasion of merrymaking? When God comes, man sleeps. This incident we also have in the New Testament. When the great master came, they had no patience to wait for him. They slept. He reprimanded them, “Could you not wait for me? The hour has come.” What kind of hour has come? It is the hour for the complete annihilation of mortal instincts, and mortal joys arisen out of mortal desires. The death of the personality is the death of all personal desires and connected joys. Therefore, death is abhorrent. Such a thing Christ embraced to give us spiritual instruction and mystical admonition that to summon God into our own hearts, to summon Him into this world of human history, is to refurbish the whole of human nature. God can enter only into God. God will not enter into unGod.

A godly nature has been demonstrated before us in the historical Incarnation of  Jesus Christ. That is godly nature. Unthinkable in its impeccable purity and the capacity to bear suffering, indomitable strength within, endless capacity to tolerate tortures meted out by human nature, and a perpetual inward communion with God Himself – that is the brief history of the life of Jesus Christ in his true nature.

The true Christ was never known as he really was. He was misunderstood. Anything that is other than human is always an object of suspicion and dislike by mankind as a whole. Humanity likes only human beauty, human graciousness, human satisfaction. Anything that is other than human, that goes beyond their comprehension, is abhorred, and that manifestation, even if it be of God Himself, is rejected by the flint-like ego of human nature, which was totally absent in Christ. Humble like a child, simple like a baby, that was the nature of Jesus Christ. Children came near him, clamouring and making a big noise, and his followers turned them away, saying, “Don't disturb the master.” The master said, “Why do you turn away these little children? Call them. Unless you are like these children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” The baseness and cussedness of human egoism is not manifest in little babies. Everything in its babyhood looks beautiful. The baby of even a tiger or a lion is beautiful. You see the little baby of any animal, even if it is a little child of a snake, and you feel pity for it. That is the special characteristic of innocence which goes with egolessness, which is seen in little children. “Be like children,” says great sage Yajnavalkya in the Brihanaranyaka Upanishad. Pāṇḍityaṁ nirvidya bālyena tiṣṭhāset: Renounce learning and become a child.

Here is the child of God before us, Christ born into our own fold, whose memory we frequently bring into our minds on occasions we call the coming of Christ, or Christmas. Does it mean that Christ should come to us only once in a year, and on the other days we can get on without him? This is the peculiarity of religious ritualism, which is busy with doing things and is not bothered much about the feeling of the import of what is being done. What we do with our hands and feet cannot take us to God. It is what our feelings implant in themselves as a perpetual dedication for the great coming of whatever they consider as important for them that is going to receive the response of God.

The modicum of God that is in humanity is the cause of the coming of God into humanity. We are godly and spiritual to the extent of the spark of God the Almighty that is present in our own lives. To that extent we are safe also, to that extent we are secure, to that extent everything is well with us. Such is the beauty, the wonder, the magnificence and the glory of this wondrous worldwide celebration of Christmas, the eve of which is at this present moment, in the middle of the night when this incarnation took place, when the darkness of ignorance was dispelled and the light shone in a place which was not easily discoverable to urban humanity. God fully manifests Himself in poor families, in the families of carpenters, of farmers, of shoemakers. Rarely do we find emperors inviting God into their palace. God is the friend of the poor because God is the poorest of all souls in one way, because He possesses nothing. Lord Siva is regarded as the utter pinnacle of renunciation. He has not even a raiment of cloth on his body. God portrayed as the height of negation of all possession is, in the Indian theological system, Lord Siva. God is the poorest of all beings because he has no possession. He is the richest of all because in Him is the abundance of eternity itself. Such is the wonder that is God, such is the wonder that is God's coming, such is the wonder of this holy occasion which we observe as the coming of Christ this eve of Christmas. God be blessed! God bless us; everyone be happy. Rejoice in the Lord!