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Yearly Archives: 2014
Today’s Celebration will be a little different. We have some ceremonies to attend, if you will.
We have just taken a 4 week journey to Bethlehem. It was a metaphysical journey of transformation. And it’s a journey we can take daily, if we choose.
Today we are going to take that transformation a little further, through the Burning Bowl Ceremony, we’ll be releasing some thoughts, feelings, events, habits and maybe even people that no longer serve us and our journey.
We are not meant to carry with us our errors, the times when we ‘missed the mark’. We are meant to learn from them and use those lessons as a means to take the next step on our physical and metaphysical journey. Our souls’ journey is not meant to be weighed down by the human emotion we attached to choices we made in our past. We are to learn, to love, to serve, and to grow.
Then, since we have created a space by releasing via the Burning Bowl, we will write a letter to God, Goddess, our Higher Self, whatever title you wish to use to express your wishes, goals, desires for the new year.
And after that, we’ll meditate on our “new name”, as spoken about in the book of Revelation.
So, let’s get started.
Today I honor what has been and welcome what is to come. I give thanks for the year that is ending, for all my experiences, and for the growth of my soul. I am ready to say good-bye to past events, the challenges that strengthened my faith, and the blissful moments that made me whole.
JoyBell C. said, “You will find that it is necessary to let things go simply for the reason that they are heavy. So let them go, let go of them.
There is a saying that in order to get where you are going, you have to leave where you are. This speaks to the need for us to be willing to release what needs to be released so that we may have the lives we desire.
Often we cling to what is, even when we don’t really want it in our lives. We stay in places that no longer speak to us, we stay in relationships that no longer work, and we keep possessions that we no longer use.
True change, transformational change, is not like arranging the furniture; (although that sometimes helps move the chia, or energy in the house and that aids change), it is like moving to a new house. Such significant change requires leaps rather than small steps. It requires us to become a new version of ourselves.
Transformational change is not something that we need to be in all the time. There are times in our lives when the soul sends a message that it is time for a leap.
If we do not pay attention, it will gradually increase the volume. The soul will not be denied; it will not let us rest unless we are following its divine urges.
Affirmation #1: I am ready for change. I open my heart and mind and create a space of invitation to transform. My intentions are clear, and I sever all bonds that hold me in place. I soar!
Did you know the word Repent means to think differently, change your mind. So, what we wish to do now is change our minds…let go of those thoughts, feelings, memories, even people that no longer serve us.
We are never bound by our past. We may bind ourselves with interpretations of our past that limit our receptivity to good in the present, but that is not being bound by the past; it is being bound by present thoughts based on a limited interpretation of the past. That is a very different thing.
Jesus, the Master Teacher, said, “Behold, I make all things new.” This passage means that the Christ Consciousness within each one of us is capable of beginning anew in each moment.
We do this through the power of our mind to pay attention to what is good, what is beautiful and what is possible to do right now. The only thing that can limit us about our past is to think about it in a limited way.
Affirmation #2: Nothing and no one outside of us has our truth
I invite you to consider what is now within your consciousness that you would like to release, to place in the Burning Bowl and see transformed by the flame of spirit. Now is the time to write on your little paper the thoughts, feeling, events, people that represents what you are ready to release.
When you have completed your list, review it…add feeling to the release; then when you are ready, take your list to the Burning Bowl and physically release it.
Be patient with those in front of you, some need time to let things go. Please hold this time in reverence as we allow quiet time for all in this ceremony.
(After the Burning Bowl is completed)
Affirmation #3: Peace surrounds me. I am at peace with myself and others. Love is my Divine heritage and peace is the way I claim it fully.
Letter to God
Our tomorrow is being created right now in our present thoughts and feelings. Use those thoughts to see a bright future unfolding.
God promises that a new thing will be done through us, when we create an opening for Spirit to work with us, in us and through us.
Be willing to create a space of invitation within for good, for joy, and for peace. We are already a success; let that reality express fully in life, beginning right now.
Daily Word – 12/30/14
A divine plan for good is at work in my life and in the Universe. My dream is a part of that plan. It comes from God-a vision and desire planted in my soul.
To out-picture this vision, I use my imagination. With my mind’s eye, I see myself achieving my dream. I allow myself to savor how it feels to see it accomplished.
Close your eyes and imagine the best possible version of yourself. From that point of reference, write your letter to God…what is it you envision for the next year? IS there something you wish to accomplish? What are your goals and dreams? Something you want to do? What does your Inner Christ tell you about the next year? Does your Inner Child have anything to add?
Put these things in your letter to God. Address the envelope to yourself. We will mail it to you in June. Then you get to check yourself, see what you have accomplished? See if you’ve changed direction?
Again we ask that you keep this space held in reverence so all can access their inner Self to write this letter. The letters will be collected along with the Love Offering.
(after the Letter)
Affirmation #4: Through the power of God within me, my dream comes true and blesses others.
Love Offering – I Release and I Let Go
The White Stone Ceremony will give you the opportunity to hear the name which Spirit wants you to have this year. It’s about starting off with a clean slate. This is a ceremony about filling the space that you have just empties through the Burning Bowl ritual, with a fresh, new life.
Affirmation #5 – I am ready to welcome the new!
Today I honor what has been and welcome what is to come. I give thanks for the year that is ending, for all my experiences, and the growth of my soul. I am ready to say goodbye to past events, the challenges that strengthened my faith, and the blissful moments that made me whole.
I create a personal ceremony for letting go. I imagine myself as a sacred vessel from which I pour out the past. With each gentle breath, I release everything to God. Reverently, I let go. I feel lighter in mind, body, and soul. I rest in the holy emptiness, trusting Spirit to fill it with Divine Love. On the threshold of a new beginning, I am ready to welcome new growth.
Affirmation #6 – I am cleansed, refreshed, and optimistic. I am grateful and open to God’s good.
A new year is a time of beginnings. And when we release, we create an empty space, which will be filled with something! This morning, I invite you to consider what will fill that empty space.
The White Stone ceremony is inspired by a quote from the Book of Revelation: chapter 2:17. Consider these thoughts: “Let anyone who has an ear listen: ….To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.”
This passage refers to a couple of actions and promises:
The first activity is listening: otherwise known as Meditation
An ear to hear is not an outer ear, but the ear of the soul; the ear that hears the “still, small voice”. We develop this inner listening quality by getting out of our intellect and into our hearts, through meditation. It is a tool to help us quiet our busy mind and listen to the Divine Voice of Wisdom. We open our minds and hearts to a deep intuitive “knowing.”
Another activity or tool is surrender:
The passage says: “To everyone who conquers…” The conquering is not an outer war, but an inner one. To everyone who takes the time to listen to the still, small voice; to everyone who practices release and affirms inner spiritual qualities…. We realize it requires surrendering personal will to Divine Will, and the paradox is that in that surrender of the egoic self is Victory. It is a birthing of the Essential Self, just as Jesus taught and demonstrated.
In this passage there are also 3 Promises:
It said, “To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.”
The first promise is “Hidden Manna:”
In the days of wandering in the wilderness with Moses, the manna was sent by God. The people only had to go and collect it each day; they did not have to do anything to earn it. If they tried to save it, it spoiled. When we are in “the wilderness” of our spiritual searching, we receive “hidden manna,” not visible to the world. We are given spiritual energy and nourishment that sustains us. Some would call this Grace. It nourishes the soul and the body. It benefits the whole being.
The 2nd promise is a White Stone
Back in the time when Jesus was teaching and someone served time in prison or in bondage of any kind, they were given a white stone when they were released. It served as a symbol that they had done their time and they had been given passage to live with all the rights of a free man. Each of us comes from the bondage of past nonsense – false limitations, old beliefs, error thinking that have been a prison. With a release from bondage, comes a sense of worthiness: we are beloved of God, one with the Divine, free and unlimited!
The 3rd promise is a New Name
In the Bible, we read of many name changes. For example, Saul – was given a new name, Paul, at the time of his awakening.
Abram, as he grew in spiritual awareness became Abraham. Sarai became Sarah. Jacob was renamed Israel. Simon was renamed Peter.
So when we awaken to inner Spirit, we take on a new identity, a new name so to speak. This refers to the new, higher realization of the I AM, a new awareness of our Christ Self.
So, I invite you to meditate on what you’re being called to in the new year, and claim that as your new name. Rest in the stillness for a time…connect with that power of God moving in and through you.
Let us relax in this sacred time and place and recall-“If you listen, you will be given a new name”
And as the word becomes clear and you write it down”
Give thanks, feel gratitude”
Be assured that your essence will always be revealed, your life will always be filled with Goodness, you will always be love, embraced, honored, there is no moment in life where this is not the truth”
Keep the stone with you, it is yours to keep, keep it somewhere where you can connect, where you are guided to keep your new name.”
Peace Song and Prayer of Protection
THE TRIP TO BETHLEHEM – A Metaphysical Journey Part 4: “Home”
Here we are, just 4 days before Christmas, and we’re completing our metaphysical “Trip to Bethlehem.”
Where are we going this week? We are going home. Wand what is “home” to you?
Our home is the Rehoboth Beach and surrounding area. And I really love our home – the house we found here, and the “feel” of this area. I especially love our group and all of you who make up this community! You’re a big part of my “spiritual family”!
Later, some of us will be going to a different home, we’ll be “going home” to be with our “biological” family. And others of us will be spending this Christmas Celebration time with a ‘family of choice.’
But, whichever way we celebrate, it will be HOME.
Our “Trip to Bethlehem” has been a metaphysical journey. And “home” in our metaphysical journey is not “a place,” but a “state of consciousness.” So I think it’s important for us to examine the consciousness that the Christmas story brings to us.
I have happily come to know that the birth of the Christ doesn’t happen just once in a lifetime, or symbolically just once a year at Christmas time.
This new birth of the Christ awareness within us can happen every moment of every day as we recognize the magnificence of who we are and acknowledge the holiness and the presence of Divine Spirit within us.
But for Christmas to have any real meaning, we must bring the Christmas story “home” – into our own lives – to know that this story is really our story. For this story represents a universal yearning in our souls to seek a more spiritual life.
So let’s pause for a moment and put ourselves in this humble setting. For although Jesus was born far away and a long time ago, this Christmas story can have great spiritual significance for us right here, and right now.
The story begins with the birth of a child, but has evolved to include the tradition of exchanging gifts, of holiday decorations – including the Christmas tree, lights, and candles – of mistletoe, candy canes, Yule logs, Santa Claus, Scrooge. . .and yes, even Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
All this “stuff” is part of Christmas. Much of it is almost as important as the original story, yet the “real” story is so much more, isn’t it? The “real” story belongs to each one of us. . .it’s our story. The Christmas story is the drama of the birth of the Christ within each one of us.
We Americans often get confused about this story, but Unity has a way of making it plainer:
The person who was born was a baby named Jesus, a babe who in manhood took on the qualities of the Christ. See, the word Christ is not a last name, as some people believe – it is more of a job description – a quality that describes the divinity within all humankind. And what we in Unity really celebrate at Christmas time is not so much the birth of the baby, but what the birth of that baby “represents” in us; the birth of the Christ awareness within each one of us.
So for the Christmas story to have real meaning, we must bring the story of the birth of Jesus into our own lives today, over 2,000 years later.
In only two of the Gospels do we have a description of the birth of Jesus – in Matthew and Luke – and they are very different stories. Matthew was writing mostly for the Jews, to convince them that Jesus, whom they had rejected, was indeed the messiah they had waited so long for. Matthew reminded them that even the Wise Men from outside Jerusalem had recognized Jesus as the messiah and had traveled a long way to honor his birth with great treasures.
Luke gives us an entirely different look at the story. Luke was a gentile, a Greek physician. He took the story into a different dimension; he gave it a worldwide setting with a universal meaning with shepherds and angels.
But it’s more important to understand that all the ideas of the Christmas story make real sense only when we apply them to our own lives, right now. As we’ve said so many times: It all happens in consciousness – everything in your life is an inner drama in which spiritual awareness is awakened in you.
And everything in the story of the birth has a place in this drama – Mary and Joseph, the inn, the manger, the Wise Men, Herod, the shepherds, the great star. They all have a role. So let’s explore the drama of the Christmas story today. . .of “coming home” to the Christ born within us.
We have two simple characters – Mary and Joseph. It was a busy time, especially for Mary and Joseph. So much had to be done to get ready for the trip to Bethlehem.
“For in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled.” (Luke 2:1) Mary and Joseph were going to Bethlehem for a census, to be accounted for. And within us there is an enrollment going on that is greater than anything in the outer. We are being enrolled in Christ consciousness – we are traveling step by step to that higher consciousness inside of us. (Remember, we said in the beginning that even though there are many names for the Divine, we are choosing to use Christ to represent that Higher Consciousness at this time of the year.)
Mary is with child. Mary has been picked for this holy assignment. She is a virgin, but how can that be? The Christ is born of a virgin.
In Unity we see Mary as representing a “virgin” state of consciousness – a state of consciousness so pure that the Christ can be born through it. It is a state of consciousness that is open and receptive to the word of God, empty of ego, free of negative thinking and judgment. . .and it’s into this consciousness, that is so pure, that the Christ can be born.
Mary symbolizes the purified soul, a soul that has become highly intuitive and sensitive to inspiration from God. It is through prayer – through the “virgin” awareness of pure intuition – that the perfect Christ idea of our own spiritual identity is inspired.
Charles Fillmore, co-founder of Unity, says that Mary represents: “The soul that magnifies the Lord daily…and through its devotion prepares itself for the higher life.” (This is our spiritual practices.)
Betrothed to Mary is Joseph, who becomes the earthly father of Jesus. Joseph represents our thinking faculty, our intellect. See, we need both the intellect and the emotion. . .there must be a “marriage” between the heart of intuition and intellectual understanding in order for the Christ to be born in us. Head and heart must work together.
Our thinking ability serves to protect, guide and support us when it is illumined and attuned to the spiritual truth through intuition. The right state of mind is important to the growth of new spiritual awareness.
Are you beginning to see how it all connects? How we must experience all parts of the story in our own lives in order to experience new spiritual awareness within us?
And where is this Christ child born? Not at the inn, for there was no room there. The inn represents the old thoughts and ideas we have used in the past, and often our ego doesn’t want to make room for this new birth, this new spiritual way of life. How often do we resist the onset of spiritual ideas? We want to throw these ideas out of the inn and listen to the old thoughts, don’t we? Sometimes the past way of doing things is just easier.
Therefore, the Christ child is not born in the inn, but in a stable and laid in a manger. The manger represents the heart or the emotions, and we must be open and receptive to feel the emotion of that birth within us. We must prepare the manger of our hearts to receive the babe, the new Christ awareness within us.
We each are an inn keeper and we each get to choose if there is room in OUR inn for the Christ.
And now enter the Wise Men. Traditionally, we have felt that there were three, but the Bible doesn’t say that, it just says, “wise men from the east” (Matt. 2:1). And the Bible doesn’t say anything about their being kings, either. The footnote says that they were Magi, wizards, or probably astrologers who came from the East, following a star.
East is the direction of the rising sun, which symbolizes the Source, the spiritual realm of consciousness. The Wise Men, then, represent something wonderful in us. . .that kind of higher wisdom and spiritual insight that can come right into our ordinary thoughts and feelings for no reason at all.
Have you ever had a “knowing” about something, a strong hunch? Have you ever experienced a “synchronistic moment” – when you begin thinking of someone and the phone rings and that someone is on the line?
That kind of thing is what the Wise Men represent in us; that wondrous mystical quality of which we become even more aware once we begin to walk the spiritual path.
And how did the Wise Men get to the birth scene? How do their qualities begin to show up in our lives? They were guided by the Star, of course.
Charles Fillmore believed the Star represents the possibilities of our own Christ nature. It shines for us – it is spiritual guidance. And when we allow that connection, we feel that spiritual guidance.
Now, there are a number of explanations of the Star. It has been suggested that it might have been a supernova, an exploding star. Or perhaps it was a very bright conjunction of planets. But if we look only for a “natural” explanation, we overlook the spiritual one.
Not everyone saw that Star! King Herod didn’t. Only the highly illumined saw the Star. The Star represents our higher aspirations, something that we can see only when we have the consciousness…when we have the spiritual receptivity of the Wise Men in us.
And we can’t forget the angels and the shepherds! Ordinarily in those days when a prince was born, bells were rung and trumpets were blown. This did not happen when Jesus was born.
Instead, angels announced the good news to shepherds in the field, for Jesus was a different kind of king – a spiritual king – who would teach us what is possible as we open ourselves to the experience of the birth of the Christ in the manger of our heart.
The shepherds represent our peaceful, loving thoughts. And metaphysically, shepherds tend with loving care the “flock of feelings” that are under their charge. Through a deep prayer consciousness, the “shepherd” in us can gently guide us back to God, to the Christ within.
The angels appeared to the shepherds in the fields as they kept watch over their flock. “An angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Christ, the Lord’” (Luke 2:10-11).
The light of the angels frightened the shepherds at first, but soon they were absorbed in the light and the glorious song of joy in the air. “There was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, good will among people’” (Luke 2:13-14).
The proclamation of peace touched their hearts. And angels help us do that, for angels represent divine ideas, they are messengers from God. They help us to understand ourselves and to come back to that wonderful spiritual place of peace and light so that we can be spiritually illumined.
Our story does not end with the birth of Christ or even his dedication in the temple. We now must establish Christ as our ruling consciousness. We maintain our inner peace as represented by the return to Bethlehem and await further spiritual guidance as we continue to develop and grow our spiritual POWER.
The accumulated wisdom of our soul represented by the three WISE MEN OF THE EAST brings us divine gifts. GOLD, the riches of Spirit, FRANKINCENSE an incense symbolizing purity of God potential, and MYRRH, an aromatic resin symbolic of the attracting power of love. These spiritual gifts prepare us to live according to our Higher Self.
The wise men are warned not to return to Herod, just as we receive outer signs that our life will return to old dysfunctional patterns that bring misery and pain if we return to our old egotistical ways of thinking and being.
Our inner guidance inspires us to restrain ourselves from letting the ego take over the Christ attributes. We must remain in our outer world as we establish new ways of expressing this inner nature. This means we may not appear that different at first. We travel to EGYPT, the world of material consciousness and do not expose all of our new spiritual thoughts until they are more fully developed and established in our consciousness. It still feels dangerous to expose this vulnerable part of ourselves.
Eventually, HEROD dies. If we allow our spiritual nature to grow and develop without letting our old ego obliterate it, the ego eventually loses its power and instead of destroying, is destroyed through lack of energy to sustain its life in us. This is when we truly claim our new LIFE as a SPIRITUAL LIFE. We are no longer fearful of past patterns that have haunted us because we now know the power of our inner Christ.
This is the true birth of Christ within our lives. We begin to live differently and find miracles, healing, wisdom teachings and mystical understandings are the natural order for us just as they were for Jesus the Christ, our way-shower.
When we feel the Christ presence within us, we can begin to remember who we are and what our purpose is – to be the Christ presence for everyone, to love those around us, to bring peace and love and joy to all the world.
We no longer need to look for the Christ child in the outer trappings that surround this holiday, for the Christ lives within each one of us as Faith, Peace, Love and Joy…the gifts of Christmas and symbols of Advent. Know that the Christ presence is just waiting to be brought into your consciousness, to be born in the manger of your heart.
Christmas is about Love in ACTION. It is about the exchange of Love; and Love is the best present of all – all we have to do is open it up!
May Christmas occur this year to you as never before. May you follow your inner star – the Light of the Christ – and be guided “home” to the potential of Spirit that is waiting to be born in you this Christmas Day!
May this Christmas be the Christmas of your life. . .one filled with the Joy and the Love of the Christ!
Today we will light our third Advent candle. Each Sunday we have been lighting a candle as we prepare ourselves for the birth of the Christ child within us. Our Advent wreath is round, without beginning or end, to represent the completeness that we have in Christ, in us
Timmy was a typical boy, many times getting into trouble with his family and at school. Even, dare I say, at church!
He was determined to get a bicycle for his birthday, he had it all picked out, one of the new kinds with special wheels and a snazzy seat.
The problem was, he was, in effect, what most people would call a bad kid! Every time he mentioned the bike to his parents, they would roll their eyes and just shake their heads, like, No Way!
He decided to ask the “Higher Authority” so, he went to his room, sat at the desk and began writing a letter to God.
Dear God, If you let me have this bike, I’ll clean my room every week.
Before he even finished writing the words, he knew he couldn’t do that, so he crumbled the paper up and tossed it near the trash can.
Picking up another piece of paper, he began, Dear God, If you let me have the bike, I’ll stop picking on my sister.
Again, he barely finished writing the words when he knew he just couldn’t do that. He loved teasing and harassing his sister!
He tossed that crumbled paper toward the trash can and picked up another piece of paper.
He sat at his desk a few moments, wondering what he could do to convince God and His parents he should have the bike.
Finally, he had it!
He ran to his parent’s room, picked up the statue of Mother Mary. Ran back to his room and hid it in his sock drawer.
Then he went to his desk and began writing: Dear God, If you want to see your Mother again….
The Trip To Bethlehem Series
This is the third week of our spiritual Trip to Bethlehem, a metaphysical journey we are taking together as we approach Christmas.
A critical element of any journey is determining where we are going, and we’re going to look at that today.
We’re also going to explore the metaphysical meaning of many of the things we’ll find along our way.
Hypatia Hasbrouck, author of “The Trip to Bethlehem,” writes that the journey we’re on is an important mythic symbol for transformation.
“The trip to Bethlehem is a round trip during which Mary and Joseph undergo a profound change,” “They leave Nazareth as a couple and, because the Child is born while they are away, they return as a family. A newborn child is almost always the center of attention and the factor which transforms a couple into a family.
Think about what transformed your relationship into ‘family.”
“The Christmas story is archetypal, for it illustrates the inner rebirth process through which the higher Self emerges…and transforms the individual.”
So our journey is a sacred trip leading us toward personal transformation on the deepest level.
THAT’S WHERE WE ARE GOING.
Ms. Hasbrouck says this trip is an inner process that guides us in consciousness
“first to an invisible point beyond space or time where we become aware that…God is the all-providing substance, life, and intelligence. . .and then back to our world ready to express our whole nature in daily life.”
So our trip, like that of Joseph and Mary, is a round trip.
First we go inward. . .then we return to the material world ready to express what we have discovered.
This is classic Unity, by the way: Principle 4 we take the inner journey through prayer and meditation and then Principle 5 turn outward to put those inner revelations into practice in our world. ACTION
We call that “Practical Christianity,” and it’s the cornerstone of what the Fillmore’s thought and what they taught at Unity School of Practical Christianity
The Christmas story is a rich one, with lots of metaphysical meaning.
Remember: METAPHYSICAL INTERPRETATION REPRESENTS WHAT’S GOING ON WITHIN YOUR INDIVIDUAL CONSCIOUSNESS. YOU ARE THE FINAL AUTHORITY!
Each element of the Christmas story symbolizes something that can or does exist within each one of us.
Hypatia Hasbrouck’s ideas of what thing mean are presented– but you have to decide for yourself whether it makes sense to you.
In week one we talked about Herod as symbolic of the human ego, but I want to add one other interesting interpretation. Herod ruled Judea, a land of religious beliefs and practices.
But the birth of Jesus was a spiritual event, not a religious one, and significantly, it occurred near the end of Herod’s life.
Ms Hasbrouck suggests, “Though the egocentric ego may rule a religiously oriented consciousness, it cannot rule a spiritually oriented one.” An interesting insight….
I wonder what your thoughts are on that???
That’s one reason we say that Unity of Rehoboth Beach is “spiritual, but not religious:” we teach that the ego must diminish if true spiritual transformation is to occur. Notice I say diminish-not be eliminated. We need the ego for many things- safety, for one.
As we begin this week’s journey, let’s review: we find Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem for the World Census.
World Census symbolizes a time when all beliefs, thoughts and feelings that were gained from the material environment are called to account.
In order to attain an awakened spiritual consciousness we must examine all that we have held as true and invite it into the light of a new spiritual evaluation rather than just trusting the outer senses. Questioning our beliefs is a major step on this spiritual journey.
We’ve discussed the importance of questioning our beliefs in our classes. We used the books by Don Miguel Ruiz and Byron Katie to bring these ideas to focus.
This “accounting” takes place in Bethlehem. Bethlehem literally means house of bread, house of sustenance.
Hasbrouck says, metaphysically it means “a consciousness of omnipresent (everywhere present) substance or divine energy which provides everything needed to create and sustain everything, including the emerging Christ.”
She also makes the point that Bethlehem had no walls, which implies that anyone can enter this consciousness. We are ALL ONE, the sooner we realize this the sooner we find peace. And the open town reminds us of the many paths that lead to the One Source.
In the Gospel of Luke, Bethlehem is called the city of David. Metaphysically, David represents love, so Bethlehem represents a state of consciousness dominated by love. And only in such a consciousness could the Christ be born.
As I often say – “Love is the answer.”
We are reminded that Strength is required to make this inner journey. Mary rides the donkey, which indicates we must lift our stubborn, resistant thoughts to a higher level where they express the higher attributes of courage and humility.
In this case, it takes strength to overcome old, stubborn habits of thinking, feeling and responding to situations in our lives. Can any of you relate to the sometimes stubborn habits we must overcome to allow for growth? I know I can.
Animals represent the instinctual consciousness that has been tamed to serve the Christ or the evolved aspects of our soul. If we follow our instincts, our insights, we discover more often than not, that we are headed in the right direction.
For many of us today – especially children – Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without gifts, so let’s look at the interpretation of the gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Gold is pretty easy: it stands for wealth, so metaphysically it means the riches of Spirit, or spiritual wisdom.
Frankincense was extremely valuable because it was an aromatic resin from a tree that did not grow in Palestine, so it had to be imported. It was the only incense burned on the altar of the temple in Jerusalem, so it was a symbol for holiness or purity.
The burning of incense changes a solid into heat and smoke, so metaphysically it represents transformation – a change from a lower state of being to a higher one.
And the aroma is detectable long after the smoke clears, so in that way, it represents the presence of God – invisible in the material world, but always present.
Myrrh was also an aromatic resin, used in perfumes and ointments – and in embalming.
It symbolizes the infinite wheel of life – and in the Christmas story, foreshadows the resurrection of Jesus.
The Wise Men are coming from the East, from the rising sun, light. Light is the symbol of awakening. They symbolize our inner wisdom. So, our inner wisdom, or insight, is awakening to the light that is our inner Christ.
So in short, “The Trip to Bethlehem”, the metaphysical journey we are on leads us inward – and that leads us to transformation, to powerful and eternal changes in our thinking and thus in our actions.
Once we set out on this journey, we cannot help but be changed at the deepest level.
In this way, our journey to Bethlehem really becomes a hero’s journey, doesn’t it?
- We return changed at depth
- Our lives take on new meaning
- We treat people differently
- We cease to be victims, no matter how awful we may have been treated in the past.
- We look at life in an entirely different way – as a wonder, not a struggle.
- We understand that cooperation, not competition, is the way to save the world.
- We recognize our oneness with all living things on this planet.
- We know that waging war cannot possibly be the way to peace.
- We understand at a gut level that there is enough for everyone – that I don’t have to give up mine in order for you to have yours.
- And, most importantly, WE TRULY UNDERSTAND THAT WE ARE NEVER ALONE. We know that God is with us, no matter what the material world looks like.
So we are at peace
Peace is really what Christmas is all about, no matter how you interpret it.
With the way our world seems at times, peace seems such a distant thing. But I remind you, PEACE begins with each one of us. And it begins within. We cannot have peace, or anything, on the outside until we have it within.
Peace begins within. Within each and every one of us.
So I’m closing today with a story that shows how a family can stay together in peace despite real tragedy.
It’s called “Secret of the Christmas Box,” written by Mark Slater.
Slater tells of a tradition in his family that the Christmas tree is taken down on New Year’s Day.
His mother likes to put away all the ornaments and handmade decorations crafted over the years by the children in the family.
Once, as a boy, he sneaks into an adjoining room and watches her remove a red-and-green paper chain, its faded links displaying years of wear.
She takes off the paper chain carefully, one link at a time, and places it in its own box, securing it with tape and whispering, “I can’t wait to see you again.”
This scene puzzled Mark Slater, so he offered to take the Christmas decorations to the basement when his mother was finished with her duties.
All the ornaments had been placed in small boxes, which were sealed inside a larger box.
When he got to the basement, he unsealed the large box, searching for the box that held the paper chain.
“There it was,” he writes, “the answer to my curiosity, the reason for the care…and the purpose for Christmas. Written on the side of the box in crayon, with five-year-old hands, in letters that did not match and leaned to one side, was the name ‘EriCK.’
“My younger brother, Erick, never lived to see his sixth Christmas or his ornament on the tree, but Mom has saved a spot for it each year, next to the star. She keeps it in repair, much like our entire family. And with weary hands and only a mother’s love, keeps the chain together.
“Now, as an adult and a father, I finally understand what ‘together’ really means.”
Mark Slater’s Trip to Bethlehem led him to the basement of his mother’s house.
And what he discovered there led to his own transformation.
How’s YOUR transformation coming along? And are YOU at PEACE?
Next week we conclude our Trip to Bethlehem…but not really. Transformation takes place many, many times throughout our lives. And the birth of our Christ presence takes place daily.
Three sons, who were raised by an overly critical and disapproving mother, grew up, left home, and went out on their own, worked very, very hard and amassed great amounts of money — mostly trying to prove their worth to their mother.
Getting back together, they discussed the Christmas gifts they had just given to their elderly mother, each trying to win more of her approval than the other ones got.
The first son, Milton, said, “For Christmas this year, I built a big house for our mother. I’ve moved her in, and she’s there right now”
The second son, Gerald, said, “I sent her a top-of-the-line Mercedes with every feature you could imagine AND a full-time driver.”
The third son, Donald, smiled and said, “You both remember how mom enjoyed reading the Bible? And you know she can’t see very well any more. Well, I sent here the best gift of all. I sent her a one-of-a-kind parrot that recites the entire Bible. It took elders in the church 12 years to teach him, but he’s got it nailed. Mama will just have to name the chapter and verse, and the parrot will recite it without a hitch!”
Soon thereafter, Milton, Gerald and Donald each received a thank you note from their mother:
Milton’s note read: “Dear Milton: The house you built for me is ridiculously large. I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house. I’m exhausted — thanks a lot!”
“Dear Gerald,” she wrote to the second, “I am too old to travel, and I spend most of my time cleaning this darn house, so I rarely use the Mercedes. Besides, the driver is so rude. Thanks for nothing!”
However, to the third, she wrote: “My Dearest Donald: “You have the good sense to know what your mother likes. Thank you so much. That chicken was simply delicious.”
This is the second step in our Trip to Bethlehem, a metaphysical journey we are taking together as we approach Christmas. A critical element of any journey is determining where we are going, and we’re going to look at that today.
We’re also going to explore the metaphysical meaning of many of the things we’ll find along our way.
Hypatia Hasbrouck, author of The Trip to Bethlehem, which is the book we’re referring to in this series, writes that the journey we’re on is an important mythic symbol for transformation.
“The trip to Bethlehem is a round trip during which Mary and Joseph undergo a profound change,” she writes. “They leave Nazareth as a couple and, because the Child is born while they are away, they return as a family. A newborn child is almost always the center of attention and the factor which transforms a couple into a family. (I wonder if this is a reason many couples, after they have moved in together and are not anticipating having children for whatever reason, get a pet. More often than not, thankfully, our pets ARE family.)
“The Christmas story is archetypal, for it illustrates the inner rebirth process through which the higher Self emerges. . .and transforms the individual.”
So our journey is a sacred trip leading us toward personal transformation on the deepest level. That’s where we are going.
Ms. Hasbrouck says this trip is an inner process that guides us in consciousness “first to an invisible point beyond space or time where we become aware that God is the all-providing substance, life, and intelligence and then back to our world ready to express our whole nature in daily life.”
So our trip, like that of Joseph and Mary, is a round trip. First we go inward, then we return to the material world ready to express what we have discovered.
Isn’t this what we have been experiencing for some time now? We read, or go to class, or discuss something and then put it into motion in the ‘real’ world?
It’s classic Unity, by the way: we take the inner journey through prayer and meditation and contemplation, classes and discussions, and then turn outward to put those inner revelations into practice in our world.
We call that “Practical Christianity,” and it’s the cornerstone of what the Fillmore’s thought and what they taught. It’s what Unity of Rehoboth Beach and our classes are all about!
Remember: metaphysical interpretation represents what’s going on within your individual consciousness. Each element of the Christmas story symbolizes something that can or does exist within you.
I’ll give you what Hypatia Hasbrouck thinks these things mean, tempered with my own ideas – but you have to decide for yourself whether what is said makes sense to you.
We have a pamphlet to help you along the way with some metaphysical definitions for reference. But keep in mind, it’s always what makes sense to you.
Let’s look at some of the characters. First, of course, is Jesus. As the unborn child of the Holy Spirit, he symbolizes the idea that God is latent in every soul – that each of us has a spark of divinity within. And we call that spark of Divinity by many names – but at this time of year, we’ll name it Jesus.
When we begin to “get it,” that we are made in the image and after the likeness of God – that we have God-stuff within us – we begin the process of transformation. That’s what Unity is all about – giving us tools to understand and manage change in our lives.
King Herod represents our egocentric ego wishing to maintain his long reign in our consciousness. This is our worldly self that tends to oppose our spiritual development. Sound familiar?
Let’s look at the Bible section of Elizabeth and Zechariah—-Luke Chapter 1, verse 5-20
Back to our journey:
As we begin to open to our inner spiritual guidance (the star) we find the wisdom (three magi) to move forward on a new spiritual path. We have a part of us that has felt barren as Elizabeth did and is open to our insights. However, there is the part of us that has established religious and other beliefs (Zechariah) that doubts the divine ideas (messenger angel Gabriel). Our old belief system is struck “dumb” unable to explain away the spiritual wisdom that is emerging within. As our spiritual understanding is developed in the inner realms of our minds and hearts, we birth an illumined intellect (John the Baptist). This new understanding is granted through grace, even though we may still be somewhat in resistance as Zechariah was.
As we continue our spiritual unfoldment into the sixth month, we are introduced to MARY. Mary represents the archetype of our purified soul and our feeling, intuitive nature when it is operating in positive ways and is prepared to welcome the Christ. Mary, as our pure soul potential, is visited by the angel Gabriel in NAZARETH, which symbolizes that she is in a state of consciousness that guards spiritual thoughts as they sprout and develop. Nazareth is in GALILEE, a land of fertile hills known for feeding people, and metaphysically means that her spiritual thoughts have gained momentum as they have been nurtured and fed.
Mary receives he angel, Gabriel (remember, angels are messengers from the divine) directly, rather than in a dream, which indicates she has developed her intuition enough to connect directly with God. The angel tells her she will bear a son to be named Jesus who will be given the throne of David and rule over the house of Jacob forever. Mary protests that she is not married and Gabriel explains that the Holy Spirit will perform the miracle.
Each of us has the full Christ potential within ourselves. At first we see our potential, but can’t fully imagine all the ways it will transform every aspect of us. It is ordained, as represented by the name of Jesus already being ordained. At this stage of our journey we’ve listened to our intuition and through our new spiritual perspective, we purify our thoughts and release outdated belief systems.
Mary is able to conceive of a Christ-led life and therefore the whole activity of God rushes in to bring this to fruition within her. Now that she has the concept growing within her, she travels to visit her kinswoman, Elizabeth. This means that she acts on faith, trusts the higher Truths she is learning and praises God for this activity within her.
Mary’s FAITH finds validation in physical form when she sees that Elizabeth is indeed six months pregnant. According to Ms. Hasbrouck, “That Mary travels to the hill town and enters Zechariah’s house (which represents the consciousness of the Priest) indicates that the soul does not abandon the outer forms of religion, but with the mental faculty of faith now active, fulfills them with a fresh realization of what the forms represent.” Our soul has begun to synthesize the spiritual attributes within us and establishes an integrated relationship just as Mary and Elizabeth nurture and support one another for the next three months.
Mary’s betrothal to JOSEPH, a descendant of David (a symbol of divine love in human consciousness), foreshadows the integration of divine love with all other attributes of the soul. Joseph represents the human awareness of spiritual oneness and the surrender to God’s will. Joseph receives his message from Gabriel in his sleep when his conscious thought is quiet and the message from Spirit can come through. This is a significant difference than Mary’s messenger.
Joseph had decided to “dismiss” Mary until the angel shared his message with Joseph. In our personal journey, we may want to discount our spiritual insights and feelings, even when things begin to manifest in front of us. We are often reluctant to change when the will of God is presented to us.
Joseph had a choice, but then received the clear inner guidance, the voice of the angel, helping him to know that this was indeed God’s will for him. Our thinking nature must choose to support our spiritual journey and be willing to surrender to our Higher Self if we are to allow our Christ spirit to become the ruling consciousness within us.
It is especially important to make a conscious choice to surrender our will to God’s will because we will be faced with opportunities to honor the “Holy Child” in our choices throughout our journey to Christhood. Every time we face a power struggle between our ego and our divine urging, we return to this point of surrender. We’ve mentioned these ‘choice-points’ before – it’s where our integrity comes into play.
The “Holy Child” is growing within us and our surrender becomes easier and easier – natural, no longer a struggle – because the choice leads to the birth of our inner Christ as our dominant consciousness.
Our SURRENDER TO FAITH represents the inner journey we must make in our thoughts and feelings to honor that which is Divinely ordained within us. We are all filled with the potential to live as Christ or to remain in our outer world of materialism.
As we begin this week’s journey, we find Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem for the World Census which symbolizes a time when all beliefs, thoughts and feelings that were gained from the material environment are called to account. In order to attain an awakened spiritual consciousness we must examine all that we have held as true and invite it into the light of a new spiritual evaluation rather than just trusting the outer senses.
This “accounting” takes place in Bethlehem, a city that represents the consciousness of omnipresent substance or the consciousness that teaches us that God is the source and sustenance of life, the provider of all our needs. It is only when we have reached this place in our own evolution of consciousness that the Christ can emerge and be sustained.
Strength is required to make this inner journey. Mary rides the donkey, which indicates we must lift our stubborn, resistant thoughts to a higher level where they express the higher attributes of courage and humility. Animals represent the instinctual consciousness that has been tamed to serve the Christ or the evolved aspects of our soul. In this case, it takes strength to overcome old, stubborn habits of thinking, feeling and responding to situations in our lives. That journey may involve a less than comfortable ride at times – as we can only imagine the discomfort of Mary during this long trek in her last trimester of pregnancy!
Our first response is to turn to the Crowded Inn as our usual place of comfort in unknown territory. This is the everyday place in consciousness where our thoughts and feelings have traditionally gone, but now are all crowded together and confused because they have all been called to this census or accounting. It has provided temporary shelter in the past, but it is not where we give birth to the truth of our Christ Self.
Instead, we must turn to the humble Stable. This is the mysterious, unpretentious inner realm where we are in touch with all of the aspects of our true nature. We have tamed our instinctual thoughts and feelings to honor our emerging Divine consciousness. In this heartfelt place, Love is born, the Christ is born.
The Christ infant is wrapped in swaddling clothes, indicating that protection is still needed for this innocent and pure aspect of ourselves. He is placed in a manger, metaphysically this means that our Christ essence must be nurtured by the true food of our evolved consciousness.
Order is established when baby Jesus is circumcised on the eighth day. This represents both the release of lower consciousness (such as greed, lust, false pride, etc.) and the total acceptance of Christ in our thinking mind.
Luke chapter 2, verse 22-38
Mary and Joseph take the Christ child to a temple in Jerusalem where he will be named Jesus, as ordained. This indicates our body and mind are both at peace with the decision to dedicate our inner Self to the service of God. Anna and Simeon are present representing the spiritual wisdom that is now present in our thinking and feeling nature. We are now committed to serve God through the expression of our Christ Spirit.
As these events come to pass the heavenly hosts rejoice and sing praises. Join us next week as we complete the journey that leads to a whole and wondrous SPIRITUAL LIFE as we celebrate this holy Christmas birth
Advent begins today! We start a four-week journey into Christmas. Today we will light our first Advent candle. Each Sunday we will light one more candle than the week before as we prepare ourselves for the birth of the Christ child within us. Our Advent wreath is round, without beginning or end, to represent the completeness that we have in Christ, in us
We can all recall, when a younger brother or sister enters a family, the older sibling has some adjustments to make. Here’s a story of a 3 year old and her frustration with her little brother who was at that age of getting into everything.
She asked, “Mommy, can we put him back, now?”
Deciding to take this opportunity as a teaching moment in how siblings should treat each other, the Mother explained to her daughter that, no, we could not put him back that her brother was a gift from God.
The little girl looked up at her Mother with her big blue eyes and responded, “I understand, Mommy. God didn’t want him either.”
THE TRIP TO BETHLEHEM –
A Metaphysical Journey
Part 1: “Preparation”
Under a cultural-exchange program, a Christian family was host to a rabbi from Russia at Christmastime. The family wanted to introduce him to a culinary treat that probably was not available in his homeland, so they took him to their favorite Chinese restaurant.
Throughout the meal, the rabbi spoke about the wonders of the United States, especially as compared to the bleak conditions in his country. When the meal was over, the waiter brought the check and gave each one of the diners a small brass Christmas-tree ornament as a seasonal gift
Everyone laughed when they discovered that the ornaments were stamped “Made in India.” But the laughter subsided when the family members noticed that the rabbi was quietly crying.
They asked the rabbi if he had been offended because he had been given a gift for a Christian holiday.
He smiled, shook his head, and said, “Nyet. I was shedding tears of joy to be in a wonderful country in which a Buddhist gives a Jew a Christmas gift made by a Hindu!”
Interesting story. I think it typifies the spirit of Christmas and Unity’s philosophies. This is the first of four talks we will share as we begin our metaphysical journey to Christmas – our journey to Bethlehem.
The next four weeks will be a metaphysical “Adventure” as we look at the Christmas story from a different perspective than the one you might be used to. As we travel on this journey, we’re going to explore the origins of the traditional Christmas story – and we’re going to look much deeper. We’re going to consider what the story means to us – how it plays out in our lives today, some 2,000 years after it happened.
Some things we meet on our trip to Bethlehem may shake us up a little. We’ll look at some of the myths and archetypes that surround the story. We’ll try to sort out the facts versus the Truth of the story. We’ll talk about metaphysics and mysticism. And we’ll try to understand what the story means to each of us, both physically and metaphysically.
Today’s talk is called “The Preparation,” because if we’re going to take this four-week journey, we need to decide what to take with us. What are we going to need on this trip?
Let’s consider what we’ll put in our backpack, or suitcase; whichever we choose to use.
The first thing we’ll want is a good understanding of the traditional story. For this entire trip, we’ll be looking at a book by the late Hypatia Hasbrouck, a Unity minister. The book is called The Trip to Bethlehem.
The basic assumption of the book – and of our trip – is that the traditional Christmas story is based on the fact that Jesus actually lived. In Unity, we believe there was such a person; that he did, indeed, walk this earth. There are some folks who question this, and that’s fine. Maybe someday we will look at that!
We also believe that the story of this remarkable man also foretells metaphysically another fact – we can do as Jesus did and express our Higher Self as we travel our life-long journey on earth.
Was Jesus born of a virgin in a manger?
Did a star pause over the manger to illuminate the birth?
Did angels appear to shepherds in the nearby hills to herald the birth?
Did three wise men come from the East to give gifts to the newborn babe?
Here’s the real question about all this…. How many of those details matter to you?
We’ll look at some of these questions as this journey unfolds over the four weeks, so keep these questions, and any others you may have in mind.
The second item we’ll need to carry with us is a good understanding of metaphysics and mysticism.
More on that later…
Third, we’ll want to take with us an understanding of the difference between facts and Truth, and the knowledge of myths and archetypes. We’ll get to those a little later in this series.
Finally, we’ll need to pack Faith and Prayer, because those two spiritual qualities will be absolutely necessary for us to fully understand all the twists and turns of the journey.
OK, let’s set out. . .
The real Christmas story is the story that lives within each one of us. It combines elements of the accounts in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke with details added in the first couple of centuries of the Christian era – and with personal tradition that plays out through music, food, family gatherings, Christmas trees and lights, visits to Santa, gifts on Christmas morning, and all the other little quirks that make Christmas what it is to you and to me.
In my family, I remember Christmas Eve meant going to my grandparents’ house – my mother’s parents. There was plenty of Italian food and all my aunts, uncles and cousins were there. Now there were 9 children in my Mother’s family so, the small house was packed, but it was usually fun, and the food was amazing.
And then came Christmas morning and seeing the presents. I’m sure every family has its Christmas morning ritual. We opened gifts and had breakfast, then we went to visit my Father’s side of the family…yes it was large too. The big decision of the day was what one gift were you taking along on the visit?
I would guess that each one of you here this morning has a favorite Christmas memory. And it’s a wonderful thing to enjoy the good memories we hold dear.
The point is, we all have imbedded in us a Christmas story. Hypatia Hasbrouck writes, “Each year, the traditional Christmas story. . .stirs all of us because the Christ Child represents the higher Self, the true Self, of everyone. . .
“We know that at some time we are destined to take the mystical trip to our own inner Bethlehem, the birthplace of our own higher Self.”
The traditional Christmas story has at least two meanings: the literal and the metaphysical. The literal meaning is journalistic – the who, what, where, when, why and how.
The metaphysical meaning, which is what we’re going to concentrate on during this journey, has to do with our consciousness, on a psychological and spiritual level. Everything in the story symbolizes something that exists or can exist within the consciousness of each of us.
Here’s an example of the difference: on the literal level, the Christmas story recounts a bunch of miraculous events that lead to the birth of Jesus – the person who was fully human at birth and later remembered his full divinity.
On the metaphysical level, the story invites us on a mystical journey within where we can find both our full humanity and full divinity. At the end of this journey, we fully discover the human part of us – and also the spiritual part of us that is undergoing this human experience. Like Jesus we, too, are both human and divine.
Unlike him, though, many of us don’t understand the divine part – or even acknowledge it as part of us. That’s because God gave us humans a great gift – the gift of free will. We can choose to express our spiritual nature – or we can ignore it. If we choose the spiritual journey, we will find the place in consciousness where the Christ comes alive in us. If we do not, then we simply “sleepwalk” through our lifetime on this planet.
To sum up, the deeper meaning of the Christmas story has many elements – the accounts in the Bible, the reports added later, the traditions we each grew up with, our willingness to explore the spiritual path.
The word “mystical” was used in the quotation I read a moment ago, and I think it’s appropriate for our journey that we examine that word a little more closely.
“Mystical” does not mean the same thing as “mysterious,” even though the dictionary does list “mysterious” as a synonym. But in Unity, we understand mysticism as a direct, one-on-one connection with Spirit, or the practice of the Presence of God.
Once you have had that experience, there is nothing mysterious about it. It becomes a way of life for those of us who meditate or contemplate, for example. So when we refer to mysticism, we mean those experiences that we have when we are in direct touch with Spirit through whatever spiritual practice we use.
All religions have a mystical aspect, though most Western religions stress ritual, doctrine and dogma. Those of us in Unity, however, rely much more on mysticism and intuition.
Let’s take a moment or two now to look at the literal story of the birth of Jesus. After all, it’s the first thing we must take with us.
The birth story appears in only two of the four Gospels – Luke and Matthew. The writer of Mark, the earliest of the four Gospels, did not include a birth story. That Gospel begins with the ministry of John the Baptist.
The writer of John also does not cover the birth of Jesus, although certainly John knew about the story, because his Gospel was written later than the other three.
The Gospel of Luke contains the earliest version of the birth story. Scholars believe it was written between 80 and 85 CE (Common Era) – more than 50 years after the crucifixion of Jesus.
Matthew’s version, scholars believe, was written about 90 CE. The two differ significantly. Experts think the two stories were written to explain how such a person as Jesus could have existed. It’s also likely that an ordinary birth story would just not do for someone with the reputation of Jesus. In other words, a “miracle birth” was required, similar to that of Moses and other Old Testament heroes.
So isn’t it possible that the followers of Jesus reached back into antiquity and pulled out some of the myths about gods and goddesses to apply to his birth? We touched on this when we discussed the Pagan origins of Halloween earlier this year.
And think about the star that moved across the night sky and then stopped over the place where Jesus was born. That event has echoes of the “pillar of fire” that helped lead Moses and the Hebrews through the desert to the Promised Land.
What time of year was Jesus born? Matthew doesn’t say, but Luke’s version of the shepherds in the fields with their flocks indicates almost any time except winter. So how did we get Dec. 25?
Again, we reach back into antiquity for a possible answer. First, the winter solstice, which takes place in late December, celebrates the time when days begin to grow longer, rather than shorter. Think of the triumph of light over darkness, if you want a convenient symbol.
Also, Dec. 25 was the birthday of Mithra, a Persian savior who was worshipped as the incarnation of eternal light. Oddly enough, the wise men, or Magi, came from the East, according to Matthew. Persia is to the East of Bethlehem. (By the way, the Bible does not say there were three wise men – we infer that because there were three gifts.)
So how much of the story is fact? More importantly, how much is Truth, with a capital “T?” Each of the Gospel accounts almost certainly is incomplete. But blended together, along with the additions and traditions that have been incorporated since then, the two form a story that points to the Truth.
This Truth becomes a guide for transformation, a spiritual map for our trip to Bethlehem. We must take this map with us on our journey, or we risk losing our way.
The map, however, is not the territory. We cannot ascertain the historical accuracy of this story – but we can discover the spiritual Truth for ourselves. This sacred story invites us to be transformed by participating in the spiritual process of rebirth – a process that can happen for us every year at this time.
Medieval monk Angelius Silesius, who lived from 1624-1677, reminded us of this opportunity when he wrote, “Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born, if he is not born in thee, thy soul is still forlorn.”
That’s the bottom line: if the Christ consciousness is not reborn in us at this time of year, we miss the entire meaning of Christmas. So I invite you to continue on our journey to Bethlehem throughout this season of Advent.
Our Adventure next week addresses this question: “Where Are We Going?” We’ll continue the journey inward as we consider the metaphysical meaning of the theme, the time, the place, the people – and yes, even the animals in this story. See you there!
A young man named John received a parrot as a gift. The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird’s mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity. John tried and tried to change the bird’s attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else he could think of to “clean up” the bird’s vocabulary.
Finally, John was fed up and he yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. John shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even ruder. John, in desperation, threw up his hands, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed. Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute.
Fearing that he’d hurt the parrot, John quickly open the door to the freezer, the parrot calmly stepped out onto John’s outstretched arms and said, “I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I’m sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behavior.”
John was stunned at the change in the bird’s attitude.
As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behavior, the bird continued, “May I ask what the turkey did?”
Thursday is Thanksgiving; so, generally the subject for lessons today is being thankful. All too often, when our turn comes to list the things we are thankful for, we merely rattle off lists we have memorized by heart and that we repeat every year without even thinking about it. Examples of items on such a list are family, friends, having a home, pets, and food. We all have people and things we are grateful for being in our lives. Isn’t that what we do?
Simply being grateful for the bigger things is not enough–it also means being grateful for those moments where you want to lift up your hands and praise Spirit for giving you something. That ‘something’ doesn’t have to be a material possession, and most often is not –it can be the love of a friend, a beautiful sunset, the sound of rain upon a window, or the feeling you get when you accomplish a major goal. It could even be when you become aware of a Truth.
Feelings…why aren’t we grateful for the feelings we experience every day? Think about it- “God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds each day, have you used one to say thank you and feel it when you do?
Scott Stabile said, “Gratitude is a key component in every happy life and is within your power each second of every day.”
Gratitude is a key that opens the door to the flow of unconditional love through your heart. The heartfelt expression of gratitude, either in words or in thought, focuses on the plenty that you have rather than anything that you think may be missing in your life.
The traditional American holiday of Thanksgiving dates back to the early pilgrims in Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts in 1621. As pilgrims, they were inclined to fast and pray for all the things that they desperately needed.
When Founding Father Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) wrote of those times, he understood the great value of gratitude. He said: “There is a tradition that in the planting of New England, the first settlers met with many difficulties and hardships, as is generally the case when a civilized people attempt to establish themselves in a wilderness country. Being so piously disposed, they sought relief from heaven by laying their wants and distresses before the Lord in frequent set days of fasting and prayer.” All that praying and fasting, he said, made them “gloomy and discontented.”
Happily, he went on, a farmer “of plain sense” suggested to the Pilgrim Assembly that instead of continuing to bother the Lord with their complaints and requests, they for once thank Him for the blessings they had been given. For although times were still hard, things were getting better. Instead of a fast, the farmer suggested, it would be more fitting to proclaim a day of thanksgiving. His advice was heeded, and the rest as they say, is history!
In the case of the pilgrims, gratitude opened them up to receiving ever more of the blessings of nature. Prior to that, their want had been closing down the natural flow of abundance and making their circumstances seem even harder than they were.
Giving thanks is the expression of gratitude, and gratitude is one of the most beautiful secrets in spiritual life.
Gratitude is a form of love, and love is something which flows from the Creator of the Universe through all forms of life and manifestation. Without love, life in the universe cannot exist. Love is the universal force of preservation which holds creation in manifestation.
Having and feeling thoughts of gratitude can make us happier and healthier. There are both physical and emotional benefits to practicing gratitude, including:
• Feeling optimistic and more joyful
• Being more focused
• Having more energy
• Feeling compassion for others
• Feeling empowered
• Sleeping better
Even more important, in my opinion, is how it changes our perspective…which changes everything!
It’s the feeling energy behind the thought that makes these changes occur in our body and in our attitude. Putting emotion behind our thought is” putting feet to our prayers.” Without ‘feelings’ we cannot manifest our thoughts into action.
Why should we invest our energy in feeling thankful? Here are some reasons:
One: Being in Gratitude Only Has Positive Side Effects.
Positive emotions make you feel good and offer a sense of comfort. When we take a few moments to express our appreciation inwardly or to another, immediately we begin to feel happier, more relaxed, more optimistic.
Two: Feelings of Gratitude Provide Short-Cuts to Miracles.
Negative thoughts and feelings create an interruption in the natural flow of life. When you are feeling positive and grateful you accelerate what it is that you desire. Consciously appreciating what you already have is the short-cut to manifestation and the secret to personal fulfillment. Myrtle Fillmore, our co-founder, suggested being thankful even in
the midst of hardship. If you are experiencing difficulty, she advised, “Be grateful in advance for the good you know will come of this.” Just as Jesus did before working His miracles.
Three: Thoughts of Gratitude Flood Your Body with Immune-Boosting Endorphins.
Studies also provide evidence that a positive, appreciative attitude enhances the body’s healing system and general health. When you hold feelings of thankfulness for at least 15 to 20 seconds, beneficial physiological changes take place in your body. Levels of the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine decrease, producing a cascade of beneficial metabolic changes. Coronary arteries relax, thus increasing the blood supply to your heart. And your breathing becomes deeper, raising the oxygen level of your tissues.
Four: Feeling Grateful Puts you Back into the Flow of Life at the Speed of Thought.
Thoughts create things. If you are feeling and thinking positive thoughts, you create positive situations. You draw positive people to you. Like attracts like.
Five: Gratitude Unlocks the Fullness of Life.
Feelings of gratitude turn what you have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast or a house into a home. Gratitude makes sense of your past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
Six: Feelings of Gratitude Give You a Natural High.
Grateful people tend to be more optimistic, a characteristic that researchers say boosts the immune system. Studies indicate that daily gratitude exercises result in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. Grateful people experience less depression and stress, are more likely to help others, exercise regularly and tend to make more progress toward personal goals. People who feel grateful are also more likely to feel loved. It’s the old adage, What goes around comes around…service to others makes you feel good and want to do more good….
Seven: Gratitude Provides an Immediate Sense of Well-Being.
Gratitude, it turns out, can help us better manage stress, as we’ve mentoned. Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress.
Eight: Feeling Grateful is the Main Cause of Sustained Joy.
Focusing on the gifts one has been given is an antidote to envy, resentment, regret and other negative states that undermine long-term happiness.
According to Arabic legend, a young man was roaming the desert and came across a spring of crystal clear water. The water was so delicious that he filled his leather canteen to the brim so he could bring some back to a tribal elder who had been his teacher. After a four-day journey, he offered the water to the elder who took a deep
drink, smiled amiably, and thanked his former student for the excellent water. The young man returned to his home with a happy heart.
Later, the elder let another student taste the water. He spit it out, saying it was terrible. Apparently, over the four days in the old leather container, it had become stale. The student challenged his teacher: “Master, the water was awful. Why did you pretend to like it?” The teacher replied: “You only tasted the water, whereas I tasted the gift. The water was simply the container for an act of loving-kindness.”
Nine: The More You Give – The More You Receive.
You always get more of whatever you appreciate. When you express love, gratitude and sincere appreciation, you naturally expand. Consciously appreciating what you already have is the short-cut to manifestation and the secret to personal fulfillment. The more you assist others, the more you will assist yourself. What we do for ourselves we do for the ALL. SO remember, every step you take forward is a step for us all.
Ten: When You Are Genuinely Thankful, Anger and Fear Disappear.
One of the incredible truths about gratitude is that it is impossible to feel both the positive emotion of thankfulness and a negative emotion such as anger or fear at the same time.
I tell my Mother all the time when she says something about worrying about me, she can’t love me and worry at the same time, so just send love.
How can you activate the Law of Gratitude?
Be lavish in your gratefulness.
Make gratitude a daily ritual. I end my day by giving thanks for all the good in my life, especially things that happened that day.
Be thankful for whatever forces you to deal with your own strong emotions.
Set aside some time everyday to do nothing much except be grateful.
Focus on what is working in your life and what IS right in the world. It doesn’t matter how small or seemingly insignificant it may be. Before long you will notice that more things will fall into place with little or no effort on your part. Gratitude is a wonderful tool to use to feel good fast.
As we go into meditation, take a moment to place each individual and thing you are grateful for with the feeling you associate with it and devote sometime in the silence to each with that feeling.
A little girl asked her mother, How did the human race appear?
The mother answered, God made Adam and Eve and they had children and so was all humankind made.
Two days later the girl asked her father the same question.
The father answered, Many years ago there were monkeys from which the human race evolved.
The confused girl returned to her mother and said, Mom, how is it possible that you told me the human race was created by God, and Dad said they developed from monkeys?
The mother answered, Well, dear, it is very simple. I told you about my side of the family and your father told you about his.
The Blessing of Dogs
I may have told some of you about the sale of my house back in PA falling through due to mortgage problems with the potential buyers. One of the things that made me look to the Rehoboth Beach area again was that sale falling through.
After I heard the news from my realtor, I was a bit distressed, to say the least. I wanted to reach for a snickers bar, but didn’t have one in the house. Probably a good thing.
What I did have is April and Shyla, my little bichons. Unless you have pets, you probably have no idea what I am referring to. My girls came over to me, one on either side, and we shared our sad little moment together. April made me feel loved with her kisses and Shyla allowed me to rub her belly. For Shyla, that was a big thing at that time.
Ben William said, “There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.” And I agree.
The love from my girls brought me around pretty quickly and I went on to do what needed to be done with the change in moving plans—notifying the would be landlord, changing the requests for utilities, letting my helpers know that everything was on hold. And then, start unpacking.
Of course, that non-sale turned out to be a good thing, because I re-evaluated my plans and ended up here, where I was supposed to be.
Pets can do wonderful things. They can sense what our emotions are and they react to them. Feel down, they know how to bring you around…a little extra loving or maybe play time or a walk. In a good mood and they are ready for anything fun. Sick? They know how to lie quietly as you get better. That’s exactly what April & Shyla did after the accident last spring. They made my limited movement a little easier to put up with.
Simply put, they are great companions.
But our animal friends do many other things too. Have you seen what therapy dogs can do for autistic children? Sometimes through therapy animals, autistic children can express feelings that are impossible to express in other ways.
Or how a visit to an elderly home by a therapy dog or cat cheers up the residents? Many times is gives them a reason to continue going on. Many of these homes now have “resident” pets.
Do you know the benefit horse therapy does for special need children? The joy they express while riding is amazing to experience.
It is a proven fact that our good hormones rise when we are around animals, and it doesn’t take long at all. Our pets enrich our lives.
And how about all the ‘working’ animals and what they do for us? They open doors and drawers for the disabled. They notify the deaf when a phone rings or someone is at the door. They help guide the blind and pull wheelchairs.
Reading to Dogs is a program to encourage kids to read, often kids who have problems reading will gladly read to a ‘listening’ dog.
There is another program that helps to rehabilitate prisoners by teaching them to train shelter dogs. The dogs are then ready for adoption and the prisoners are changed for life.
We all have heard of the stories how a dog or other pet saves a family by alerting them about a fire or other hazard. There are many other types of incidents where an animal has saved their humans by their alertness. Sometimes at the expense of their own life….
And there have been other incidents where animals in the armed service have assisted in hostile situations. There are several programs to bring these “animal soldiers” home as many are still in hostile areas. Police dogs are used for many things, drug and chemical weapon identification. Search and rescue is another very important gift that they give us. Some animals have been trained to detect illnesses like cancer or alert for potential seizures.
Dogs are amazing. I’m sure cats, and all other sorts of animals are too, but I know dogs.
There are many books & movies about animals and all they give to us. True unconditional love. Dozens of books abound about the stories behind service dogs, shelter dogs, military dogs, police dogs and ‘house’ dogs and the lives they save. One great book is “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein. It’s told from the dogs’ point of view and the spiritual insights you will find very interesting.
Here is a reading from the Science of Mind magazine with more about this relationship we have with dogs: If you have rescued an animal, you may be able to relate:
My name is Murphy, and I have asked Rev Bob to let me talk to you. Rev Bob thinks I am a rescue dog and that he saved my life. He thinks I am a twelve-pound Lhasa Apso. He needed to think he saved me because he could not save himself. He suffered from the condition of ‘separation.’ The truth is that he felt closer to me than God. I think I was able to help him because he saw the spark of God in me. Bob had fallen asleep, and I was on the path to his awakening. Often, people in his state of mind come to rescue shelters. They think they are there to rescue an animal and don’t realize that they are there to be rescued. They look through the cage doors at discarded lives and don’t see that they have discarded their own. They don’t see the invisible prison in which they live.
Bob had slipped from a ‘being’ into a ‘doing’. Living in a state of doing had robbed him of a great deal of his life. When we lose sense of beingness, the heart beats with less vitality. Eventually, life’s warmth seeps out and is replaced with apathy. Fortunately, Rev Bob had a God awakening. I love the Dog in him, and he loves the God in me. I just wanted you to know what the unconditional love of a dog can do.
Wise words from Murphy.
Many time I have seen a statement along the lines of ‘there’s a reason d o g is GOD spelled backwards. Think about it.
I have my own rescue story. Many of you are aware that I use an animal communicator to chat with my girls. Kelly McGinley does a wonderful job getting messages back and forth between Shyla, April and myself. It’s a way for me to feel as if I have an understanding between the three of us.
I’ve used a communicator for many years now and with many of my dogs. It is a wonderful way to make sure you understand what is going on with them in every way. So, it was with a communicator that I found out that my one Bichon, Graycie, had brain cancer back in 2007. I was already familiar with cancer as I had completed my first 5 years of breast cancer remission.
Speaking to Graycie through the communicator, we figured out the extent of her cancer and what Graycie wanted as far as her treatment was concerned, which was; no treatment. Just keep her comfortable, because the cancer was extensive.
She told me what to look for when she was ready to go and that’s what we did. And when it was her time, she and I spent some close time together before helping her over the Rainbow Bridge.
But another thing we learned while communicating was that Graycie took that cancer for me. Instead of me developing cancer again, she took it. She said it was important for me to complete my mission, to continue on with my Spiritual Journey.
So, I’m here today because of Graycie. Do I believe this, yes. I personally know people who have gone years without cancer only to have it return and in some cases, lose that battle.
I love that dog and miss her very much. She, more than any of the other dogs I have had or fostered, taught me unconditional love. And how to give that unconditional love to others.
Sometimes I wonder if how we are with our pets is our Truth and what would be different if we showed that US to everyone? I certainly try to be unconditional to everyone, but know I’m nowhere near what our pets are when it comes to that.
Erica Jong said, “Pets come into our lives to teach us about love, they depart to teach us about loss. A new pet never replaces an old pet; it merely expands the heart. If you have loved many pets, your heart is very big.”
SO what’s the message here? There are at least two very important ones that I see: The Power of unconditional love is one, and the reminder for us to recognize and honor the gifts that are given to us, no matter where they come from and no matter what form.
Here are some more suggestions from our canine friends:
Live in the moment, Overcome fear with love, Don’t hold grudges, Play every day,
Jump for joy when you’re happy, Accept yourself, Enjoy the journey, Drink lots of water
Be loyal and dependable,
Give your pets an extra hug today when you go home.