The beginning of the real Christmas story came about many many ages before the incident we now celebrate each year as the birth of the Christ-child. The spirit of Christmas is the same now as it was then, for it is the time when all of us feel within our hearts a greater and purer kindliness for everyone — the reflection in our age of that which happened long long ago.
Once upon a time there were men and women and children, just as there are now, and there were animals and birds who lived in the wild places where people couldn't bother them, as well as those who lived with men. There was one very special Man who lived right with the people, but who understood all the troubles and sorrows that human beings suffered far better than they themselves did. He knew the birds and the animals and all the living creatures that dwelled around and about as the younger brothers of mankind.
There came a time when this Man, because of his great sympathy for his brothers, and because of his confidence that comfort and the right kind of help could be given to assuage their sorrow and pain, made one fervent appeal for Divine support of his wish to help the world. For even as he knew so well the difficulties of mankind, so also he knew that the Divine Powers which had shaped and molded the Earth, and everything upon it including men, could show him how the strife in the world could be transformed into one great symphony.
So it came about that this Ancestor of ours, a Man who wanted to help the whole world, raised himself, heart and soul and mind, into the realms of Divinity, where all the causes of the world's inharmonies are revealed, and the means of correcting them are known. Then he returned to his home upon the Earth so that he could bring to his people the strength and knowledge, as well as the comfort and hope, that their souls cried out for. And when he returned, what do you think happened? He did not have to speak words or tell the people stories of his journey to Divinity. For the spirit of the answers he brought with him reached out into every section of the land, and everything and everyone felt such a surge of joy and strength and peace that words just could not describe it. And best of all, the people in all lands forgot their sorrows, put away their quarrels, in a great encompassing love for all. Men, women, and children, all together knew then what peace on Earth really meant. They knew that every life is important, and that all could live together without interference. And further, that the animals too belonged in the great scheme, and were not the enemies of men, but their friends, sharing the work of making the Earth a place of beauty and harmony, with careful cooperation instead of tyranny.
The time when all the world blossomed with this wonderful joy was at exactly the same period of the year when we celebrate Christmas. Ever since then the races of men down through the ages have felt at this cyclic return of the seasons the impact of the Divine Impulse. As the centuries passed, other Great Men lifted their hearts and minds and all their aspirations into the realm of Divinity, and each brought back what he could to illumine the lives of the people of his times.
The incident of the birth of the Christ-child at the Winter Solstice is the most recent of these cyclic remembrances, and as we celebrate each year at Christmas, all of us feel and give as much as we can of the spirit of protection for the helpless, comfort for the sorrowing, peace and joy beyond the power of words to express. In our small way we share in Something that happened a long, long time ago.
(From Sunrise magazine, December 1953; copyright © 1953 Theosophical University Press)