- Baha’is abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset for 19 days. While this abstention from food and drink is a test of one’s will and discipline, the Fast is not just about abstaining from food. The Fast is, primarily, a spiritual practice.
Christmas can be a beautiful time of year; the twinkling lights, festive ornaments, and mugs of hot cocoa weave a tapestry of warmth and joy, igniting the spirit of the season. But Christmas can also be a challenging time if you celebrate other religious holy days or live in a place where the majority of the people around you participate extensively in Christmas. As a Baha’i, I believe in the station of Christ and the important message He brought to the world, just as I believe in the divinity of all previous Manifestations of God (Zoroaster, Muhammad, Christ, and so on). And so, in the spirit of unity, I can join my friends, neighbours, and families of various faiths in their holy day observances. You won’t find me, my family or my Baha’i community hosting Christmas celebrations, but you will find us organizing events and gatherings to mark dates of significance in the Baha’i calendar, such as Naw-Ruz, Ridvan or Ayyam-i-Ha–and these celebrations are open to all.
As a child in the South Pacific, the Christmas season always carried a subtle but poignant difficulty for me. While my friends excitedly chattered about the elaborate gifts they received and eagerly shared snapshots of their beautifully adorned Christmas trees, I found myself on the outskirts of those conversations. When my friends eagerly inquired about my Christmas plans, explaining that my family didn’t celebrate the holiday brought a unique set of challenges. My explanation often led to a series of questions, highlighting the contrast between our experiences, and emphasizing the intricacies of being a part of a minority perspective during the holiday season. It wasn’t just about missing out on presents or decorations; it was about feeling disconnected during a time that magnified togetherness.
It took many years, but as I grew older and matured, a gradual unraveling of my preconceived notions about the true meaning and appearance of Christmas began to take place. I confronted the pervasive materialistic culture tightly woven into the fabric of the holiday season, realizing that Christmas had become synonymous with the acquisition of new things. Challenging this perspective, I started to question the notion that the essence of Christmas solely rested on the exchange of gifts and the material abundance that often defined the season. Instead, I began to appreciate the importance of redirecting focus towards the intangible aspects of the holiday—embracing love, kindness, and generosity as the true cornerstones of Christmas. This transformative shift in perspective allowed me to cultivate a deeper understanding of the season, emphasizing the profound impact of meaningful connections and the joy found in acts of compassion and giving.
As the holiday season unfolds, I think it becomes an opportune time to reflect not only on the teachings of Christ, but also on the broader spiritual continuum that stretches to encompass the revelation of Baha’u’llah. Abdu’l-Baha said of Christ:
His teachings are as a flower in the bud. Today, the bud is unfolding into a flower! Bahá’u’lláh has expanded and fulfilled the teachings, and has applied them in detail to the whole world. 1
Abdu’l-Baha’s words emphasize the profound connection between these two pivotal figures, likening Christ’s teachings to a flower in the bud, waiting to blossom. Today, as I navigate the Christmas season, this analogy takes on a deeper significance, portraying the unfolding of spiritual truths across time. Abdu’l-Baha’s insight emphasizes that Baha’u’llah, the Manifestation of God for this age, has not only expanded and fulfilled Christ’s teachings but has also applied them in intricate detail to the entire world. This perspective can invite us to remember and honor not only the profound teachings Christ brought during this festive time, such as to love God, love our neighbour as ourselves, and to be of service to others, but also to recognize the continual unfolding and application of Christ’s teachings through the teachings of Baha’u’llah, enriching our understanding of the spiritual legacy that unites these two Messengers across the ages.
Despite the profound understanding of the interconnectedness of the teachings of Christ and Baha’u’llah, the holiday season can still evoke a sense of isolation for those navigating diverse spiritual paths. In recognizing this, I think it’s important to actively seek ways to overcome isolation and cultivate connection. One strategy involves exploring alternative means to connect with loved ones, emphasizing the significance of shared experiences and bonds beyond religious differences. Additionally, engaging in community events or volunteering can provide a meaningful avenue for fostering a sense of belonging, transcending the barriers that might arise during the holiday season. By embracing these proactive approaches, I believe we can not only celebrate the spiritual depth within various traditions, but also find common ground with others, creating a bridge of understanding that resonates with the universal teachings of love, kindness, and service.
Embarking on a journey of connection through alternative avenues and engaging in shared values, the essence of Christmas became a celebration of unity and the universal principles present in all religions for me. As I navigate the festive landscape, I hope to celebrate the unfolding flower of spiritual truths, finding beauty in the diversity of traditions and the common thread that unites us all.
Footnotes & Citations
- Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 92-93
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