The Soul of Christmas is a book best read in quiet, as it undoubtedly was written. In a year punctuated with bickering, animosity and fear, this new classic by Thomas Moore gently lifts us out of that weariness and into the possibilities of the holiday season.
It has become fashionable to fret about Christmas—about its excesses, its commercialization, and about the elevation of Santa as a secular stand-in for the King of Kings. But Moore, in this personal and big-hearted book, gives us permission to see all of it through the eyes of symbolism and beauty rather than judgment and criticism.
“We have separated wisdom from storytelling,” he says, “but the Christmas story brings them back together. Part of its light spirit is the relief we feel from living in a disenchanted world, a world made dark and heavy by its devotion to facts.”
Each detail of the Christmas story—the virgin birth, the animals keeping the baby warm in the manger, the gifts of the magi, the angels heard on high—carry meaning that is not reserved only for December 25, or only for Christians. If ever there was a book that shows how Christmas can be part of our everyday lives, this is it.
Each time we conceive of a new idea, for example, we are experiencing a spiritual impregnation.
Each time we experience rejection—our own form of being turned away from the inn—we “turn the ground over so that something can grow.”
The Soul of Christmas, it seems, is the soul of each of us, growing spiritually into our own large life purpose.
Moore encourages us to take time with the symbols we love but may rush through: Unpacking the nativity, decorating the tree, stringing the lights, choosing gifts. Each, he explains, has its roots in a story that predates the birth of Christ, embracing the earth, the stars, and our own deeply held potential as spiritual beings.
In fact, it might be helpful to read a chapter of this book every day leading up to Christmas for its combination of inspiration and practical advice.
Wrap your gifts in red paper to symbolize the heart. Give toys to loved ones to remind them to play. Place the star at the top of the tree to remember to look into the sky and imagine its mysteries.
Moore makes a strong case for the fact that these traditions persist—even when we don’t take time to think about them—not because they connect us to a Christian holiday, but because they embody the nature of transcendent love.
When it’s easy to disparage the traditions for being crass or too time consuming, this book offers up a generous and reassuring affirmation:
“Christmas is not just a holiday; it’s the microcosm of what a renewed life might look like, at least in principle.”
Engage in Christmas, Moore writes, but do it without the frenzy. “The best way to deal with the exhaustion of the holidays is not to withdraw but to enter them thoughtfully,” he says.
With this book’s guidance, you can do so with joy, with an open and generous spirit, and with appreciation for what’s being born within you.