NOTE: you might also enjoy this:
Today, January 5, is the birthday of Paramhansa Yogananda. This has always been significant to me because he has been my divine Guru since age 22. So, his birthday also marks a renewed spiritual birth in me, and in my family.
It is also very significant for me because January 5th falls well within the “Twelve Days of Christmas”. This is because the first day of Christmas is either counted from Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
Here is a quote from an interesting article on the twelfth day of Christmas:
The Oxford English Dictionary says it falls on 6 January – although it then goes on to say that ‘strictly’ it’s the evening of 5 January which was ‘formerly’ the twelfth and last day of Christmas.
As a child, our family put up very few Christmas decorations before December 24th. We would put up a wreath on the door, and a few other things perhaps, but on the 24th the home became a wonderful flurry of Christmas activity. The tree came in with the wonderful scent of balsam fir filling the home. My father and the four children decorated the tree mostly, while Mom made Christmas cookies in the kitchen. She had made a few batches before Christmas Eve – but we would only be allowed one or two, and they had then been saved for Christmas Day and beyond.
I have very positive memories of Christmas coming in with such a gust into our home. Why? Because we had prepared inwardly, all through Advent, which is counted by the four Sundays preceding Christmas. Each Advent we would have the advent wreath on the dining room table, 4 candles surrounded by greens. The candles were lit each night (week one had one candle, week #2 had 2 candles, and so on. ) There were some stories, prayers and sometimes the song, O Come of Come Emanuel.
Each of us made a personal promise to Jesus, something we would do during the advent season to bring us closer to Christ. Some years I made the commitment to walk to daily Mass on my own every day during advent, even though I was only a school age child. Mass was at 6 AM and this was December in New Hampshire, but luckily the church was only a few blocks away and those were safer times, for the most part! Daily Mass is much more inward than Sunday Mass. People came dressed in their regular clothes for the day, and I knew they were there simply because they loved God. No “Sunday finest” required or expected. Some were dressed as mechanics or similar jobs, and I was dressed in my school clothes.
It was very peaceful and quiet, and in those moments I felt closer to God and Christ. When I found the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda as a young woman, and learned to meditate every morning and evening – I found that same quiet closeness to God that I had felt as a child at daily Mass.
That inward preparation for Christmas throughout Advent made the approach of Christ’s birth very real to my heart. By Christmas Eve, even though I was very excited about the tree and Santa and presents, I was equally moved, but in an inner way, to set up the family crèche. It had a place of honor in the living room, taking up a beautiful cherry table in the living room. I remember sitting up late at night on Christmas eve, watching the glow of the logs in the fireplace and feeling the inner approach of Christmas…
The Three Wise Men
We kept the tree up all through Christmas – until January 5th – that evening we took down the tree, but left up the manger scene – and we moved the wise men closer to the Christ child. On January 6th – Epiphany, we were given one more gift, and we went to Mass. Even if it was a school day, these things happened. Then at night we finally took down the manger.
All of this increased in meaning for me when I realized that through all of my young life, during Epiphany, I had been unknowingly honoring my line of gurus.
Less than a month after I met Yogananda and was accepted by him as a disciple, he invited me to join him at his desert retreat at Twenty-Nine Palms, California. There, he dictated a few lessons for his yoga correspondence course. One evening, to my amazement, he included the following information: ‘The three wise men who came to honor the Christ Child after his birth were the line of gurus who later sent me to the West: Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Swami Sri Yukteswar.’
Nayaswami Kriyananda, in Chapter Eight of:
Epiphany is traditionally celebrated on January 6th – the day after Paramhansa Yogananda’s birthday. I later learned that in some parts of Spain and other cultures, Epiphany is a very big holiday – complete with celebratory parades, etc. It is nice to know our line of gurus has been being honored all of these centuries, albeit a bit incognito!
It also touched my heart with deep meaning that Paramhansa Yogananda often referred to his mission as “The Second Coming of Christ.” This inspired me to continue these traditions with my own children, adding in the fresh inspiration of Paramhansa Yogananda.
‘The work he sent to the West through Master is helping people to commune inwardly with God,’ continued Bernard. ‘Jesus, too, through people’s practice of meditation, is becoming a living reality for them, a being with whom they can commune, rather than merely read about in the Bible. This was what Jesus meant when he said that he would come again. Master often speaks of this work as the Second Coming of Christ, for it teaches people how to fulfill the true promise of Jesus’ not to return again outwardly, but in the souls of those who loved him and communed with him.’
May these things inspire your devotional life with your own family, in your own way. I had wanted to write about this earlier in the season, as a form of preparation for Christmas, but unfortunately I was sick during much of December. God comes in mysterious ways…But, I decided to at least write it now in honor of the twelve days of Christmas, and Yogananda’s birthday and the Three Wise Men. These ideas are timeless – so they are now available for families in years to come. Perhaps you can use it today and tomorrow…
Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 2, Verses 1 and 2, and Verses 9-11:“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
“Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him….
“And, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”
The wise men in the Biblical story are described as seeing the star in the East. They saw it there not only when they were in the East, but also after they had arrived in Palestine. “The star, which they saw in the East,” says the Bible, “went before them.” Yet they were traveling westward!
The Hebrew word for east, as we saw last week, is Kedem, “that which lies before.” In several places in the Bible, this word is used in reference to the forehead. The “star in the east,” then, was a star that the wise men saw in their foreheads…
Parallel Passages, with Commentary, from the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita, by Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters)
This Light in the forehead is also known as the spiritual eye. May the Light of Christ be within you, and shine all around your family, now and always!