I’m a huge fan of Christmas, but the ancient Gnostics of the first few centuries C.E. probably weren’t, and that’s because of how they thought about Jesus’ divinity. Early Gnosticism was a diverse family of different Christian groups, but many of them held different ideas about exactly HOW Jesus was God that might be unfamiliar to us in the modern world.
Instead of Jesus being born as a being that was simultaneously both completely human and God, many Gnostics were Adoptionists. That is, they believe the human Jesus became divine at his (adult) baptism when the Aeon Christ, an emanation from the fullness of God, descended upon Jesus and united with him. So during Jesus baptism, he’s “adopted” by God as God’s Son.
This also seems to be a form of the earliest Christology in Christianity, that is, when the very first Christians believed that Jesus was divine this was how they viewed it, and it’s what we find in the canonical Bible in the Gospels of Mark and John. If you’ve ever opened Mark and wondered why it started with the baptism and not the nativity it’s because this was the Christmas story for Mark, this is when Christ (but not Jesus) was born.
Other Gnostic groups were Docetists (from a Greek word meaning “apparition”) and they believed Jesus as an entirely Divine being who never had a human birth, that is he just arrived on Earth one day as a fully grown adult, inserted into our world from the Divine Fullness, and his human body was either an illusion or composed of a flesh and a material far different and superior to ours. If you’re a loyal Talk Gnosis listener this the Christological formula we refer to as, “Jesus doesn’t poop.”
So, if Jesus was beamed down to Earth as a fully grown adult or Jesus wasn’t born the Christ but became the Messiah at his baptism then the manager and the baby and the shepherds and whole Xmas shebang doesn’t really work.
But of course we’re not 1st or 2nd century Gnostics, and we have a good 2000 years of mystical and esoteric Christianity that sees a lot of value in the Christmas story. And I personally find it to be an incredibly Gnostic narrative about how the Numinous in all its forms, including our own inner Divinity, manifests in the material world.
Where is Divinity to be found? The wise men go to a logical place, the court of the rich and powerful King Herrod. But it’s not in the palace and structure of worldly power they find God, but in a barn full of animals and manure, with a slut-shamed teen mom and an unsophisticated carpenter all them surrounded by rough sheepherders. God tells us who he’s choosing and siding with here and gives us hint on how to give birth full birth to our own inner Godhood by being outside the
And of course what happens when the Archon Herod learns of Christ birth? He tries to murder him. Another powerful teaching story about how the world reacts when our still young and developing inner Godhood starts to manifest and express its self into the conventional world.
So enjoy this year’s Christmas and see how the season and the story assist you on your personal journey and as always, though particularly in this case please do as I’m a certified Yule nut, tell us in the comments how you interpret Christmas and what it means for your spiritual life.