You know what claustrophobia is, don't you? It's the fear that Santa Claus will get stuck in your chimney.

There's another kind of claus-trophobia, and that's the fear of "being" Santa.

Santa may well be the most universal symbol in western culture. Why does Santa have such appeal?

Symbols are magnetic only to the degree that they touch upon something we instinctively sense about ourselves.

We love Santa because there's a Santa in all of us. He represents a part of ourselves that we long to express.

I think of Santa as a jolly person with a twinkle in his eye, a kind smile on his face, and a great big belly laugh. To my mind he's a peace-loving, friendly, warm person with enormous enthusiasm for life.

Don't we long to feel the same way?

Beneath our layers of self-doubt, sadness, disappointment, anger, don't we resonate with that jolly personality, that twinkle in the eyes, that smile, that great laugh?

There's a Santa in each of us, even if at times we may not know how to let him out.

Christmas is about joy, as Luke proclaims: "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be for all the people." This is the season of good cheer—which is why, at the heart of the festivities, is a magical figure who is wonderfully jolly.

All of us have times when we are happy. But feeling "happy" because things are going well pales alongside the great joy represented by Santa.

Joy is a sensation of ecstasy, a feeling of rapture. We feel like jumping, shouting, skipping, dancing.

In its focus on Santa, Christmas is a symbol of releasing the joy inherent within each of us. It invites us to experience that spark of joy that, according to his confidants, blazed up in Jesus.

There is within us a sea of delight—delight with our true being. To be true to ourselves, completely real and authentic without any kind of act, is a state of "great joy"—the sort of joy represented by Santa.

The more real we are each and every moment of our lives, the more joy we will quite naturally experience.

It's not that this joy means our life is trouble-free. There are obstacles, losses, disappointments, times of sadness. But in the middle of it all, there is the joy that comes with being aware of who we truly are.

In other words, this sense of delighting in ourselves is quite detached from the hurtful things people say or do to us. It's also detached from whether or not things are going "well."

Joy is an undercurrent, flowing even at those times when everything seems to be going wrong. Even in the depths of the winters of life, Santa soars through the night sky to the merry jingle of sleigh bells—a picture of the joy we cannot help but feel within if we are living from our authentic being.

The same gospel writer who tells us that Jesus experienced an abiding joy reports that he also experienced all of the pain and sadness that we do. On the eve of his execution, Jesus told his closest friends, "I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete."

Trapped in each of us, there is a Santa. If we let go of our claus-trophobia, a wonderful sense of ourselves spontaneously wells up and floods us with joy.

Pain, loss, disappointment, and sad times don't pack the wallop of despair, hopelessness, and futility. In the midst of it all, the joy is still there. Joy, not misery, has the final word on how we experience life.

Jesus didn't embrace the Santa within him all at once. We're told that he came to it through a lot of tears. As new situations unfolded in his life, he had to learn to experience himself as completely delightful in each of these situations.

He had to be willing to stretch himself to be more and more true to himself, so that he could feel his innate joy in ever greater intensity, living it out more and more creatively and wholly. This is why he is spoken of as "the true light coming into the world."

I find this is something most of us hold back from. In the back of our mind is the thought that to wish to be too happy might be to tempt fate. So we go through life holding back lest the other shoe drop. It's a claus-trophobic way to live.

The joy at our center longs to burst free in the belly laugh of Santa. Yet a part of us dreads becoming a whole lot happier than the compromise we've struck with life's disappointments. Gosh, what if we became deliriously happy? Could we stand this much joy? I mean, who really wants to feel as jolly as Santa?

To know joy at its fullest, we have to risk allowing life to stretch us. We have to be willing to brave the giddy heights of delighting in ourselves without apology.

Are we willing to allow Santa to become an internal experience year-round? This is the challenge of Christmas.

In the words of the poet Ted Loder, "Gentle me, Holy One, into an unclenched moment"—a state free of claus-trophobia—"a deep breath, a letting go of heavy experiences, of shriveling anxieties, of dead certainties, that, softened by the silence, surrounded by the light, and open to the mystery, I may be found by wholeness, upheld by the unfathomable, entranced by the simple, and filled with the joy that is you."

Author's Bio: 

David Robert Ord is author of Your Forgotten Self Mirrored in Jesus the Christ and the audio book Lessons in Loving--A Journey into the Heart, both from Namaste Publishing, publishers of Eckhart Tolle and other transformational authors.

If you would like to go deeper into being your true self, powerfully present in the now, we invite you to enjoy the daily blog Consciousness Rising -