The Fourth Sunday of Advent
You are the Light
Advent! This is the final Sunday in our four Sunday journey to Christmas! This week we celebrate not only the birth of Jesus two thousand years ago, but metaphorically, the awakening of the Christ consciousness in each of us.
Cultures and religions around the world celebrate the arrival of the light during this, the darkest part of the year. Today’s candle is for Joy, it is a celebration of the presence of the light within each of us that never goes out.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
One of my favorite Unity Ministers, Rev. Ed Townley has a column in Unity Magazine called Ask the Rev. People can write to him questions about the Bible and about Unity and he responds.
One question was about why Luke and Matthew have different accounts of the birth of Jesus. Mark and John do not address the birth story at all.
This is what Rev Ed said:
Matthew and Luke differ in significant ways in their versions of the birth of Jesus. Matthew traces Jesus’ roots back to Abraham to emphasize his role as the Jewish Messiah. Luke traces him all the way back to Adam, to emphasize the universal importance of his life and message. Matthew says the birth was in Bethlehem because that’s where Mary and Joseph lived. He has them fleeing from Bethlehem to Egypt to escape Herod, then later returning and deciding to live in Nazareth because it was a safer distance from Jerusalem.
Luke says they lived in Nazareth, went to Bethlehem for a census (although there is no Roman record of a census taken at that time) and were forced to stay in a manger. Matthew doesn’t mention a manger. Luke has the shepherds; Matthew has the Wise Men.
The point is neither writer was intending anything like an accurate, historical description of an event. Neither was either deliberately fudging facts. They were both—in their own ways and for their own reader—telling the spiritual truth about an event of tremendous significance—an event whose importance could never be expressed or understood with a simple recitation of human facts.
Both Jewish and Greek traditions were filled with stories of ‘miraculous’ births. It was an accepted and effective way of alerting people that someone important had come on the scene.
We cheerfully ignore the inherent conflicts between the two versions and weave them together into one magical Christmas story—with shepherds and Wise Men and angels and animals and a stable and an angry king—and yes, a drummer boy if we feel like adding one. We intuitively know that the story is really being told at a deeper level.
So, what is the story about, metaphysically? Some say it’s about the birth of the Christ, but that’s not possible. The Christ is the Light and Love of God, present in each of us. It is our true spiritual identity, the creative Power of God seeking to express through us. It is, therefore, as eternal as God—it can’t be born.
What can be born, however, is our awareness of our true Christ nature. And what can be—and is—reborn every Christmas is our personal surrender, allowing more of the Christ to begin to express through us. We can believe—or not—that Mary was a mortal virgin; it really doesn’t matter.
It is metaphysically true that the birth of Christ awareness is always a Virgin Birth. Its source is never the tangible world around us; our willingness is embraced and implanted by divine awareness.
So metaphysically what we celebrate each Christmas is not the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, and not the birth of the Christ, but the birth of Christ awareness. What Jesus brought to us was a spark of new light, new possibility—a light that shines through the darkness of human confusion and illuminates the spiritual truth of who we are.
And it doesn’t just happen once. Every Christmas is a new birth—a new opportunity for each of us to give birth to more of the light—and to commit ourselves to nurturing that light, trusting it, believing in its Presence within us, sending it forth with every choice we make to bring more of itself into expression—to create more, and more again, of the new consciousness with which we each of us is miraculously pregnant—the consciousness Jesus describes as “the kingdom of heaven.”
Unity founders Charles and Myrtle Fillmore understood Christmas as a season of great joy and expectancy but also viewed it as a time for inner celebration when the Christ awareness is born in human hearts.
Charles Fillmore wrote of Christmas in 1919. “It does not belong to the past; it is a vital, living, present Truth. The bringing forth of the Christ child is not a work that is finished in Bethlehem. It is taking place in our midst every day. It is this we celebrate.”
“Make of yourself a light,” said the Buddha. Like Jesus, he knew that he was light, and people were drawn to him. And they both knew that that was beside the point.
They knew it was easier to idolize teachers than to actually listen to what they said and live accordingly. Imagine both of them saying different versions of “Don’t you get it? It’s not about me! You—you are the light of the world.”
To be of value, such a teaching has to apply to everyone, no matter who they are, no matter what they believe, no matter whether they are especially great moral achievers or struggling to figure out the right thing to do, like the rest of us.
Notice that Jesus did not say, “Blessed are the powerful, the wealthy, the popular. Blessed are the handsome; blessed are the cool.” He was speaking to the rest of us. You, whose marriage failed, or who remained single in a world where people are expected to be married—you are light. You with a jailed child, you are light. Your child is, too. You who work at a job you hate, you who lost your job—you are light. You are light when you don’t like yourself very much, when you have failed. That’s the miracle of the light—God in you—it’s still there and it can be there even against your will.
The earliest followers of Jesus were not members of the educated or upper classes in his society. They were fishermen, farmers, laborers and spiritual outcasts—people whose work, behavior or inability to tithe to the Temple kept them outside the circle of those considered religiously acceptable. They were variously resigned to being considered unimportant at best, unacceptable at worst.
Jesus’ basic message to these people is: “You are the light of the world.” Certainly no one had ever told them such a thing before—even John the Baptist had seen them first and foremost as sinners who needed to repent. The great gift of Jesus’ awareness is that he saw people as they truly are—whole and perfect expressions of divine Light. And he was able to translate that insight into practical, pragmatic terms everyone could understand.
If he had tried to explain the universal spiritual truth behind his statement, they would not have understood, and they would not have believed in their own light. But they could easily understand the absurdity of lighting a lamp and then covering it over so it couldn’t be seen. The light would be totally wasted—and none of the followers could afford to waste anything, especially something as precious as a source of light in their homes.
Oil for lamps was so precious in those days, a rare commodity. it wasn’t until about 1800 that ordinary people could afford candles in their homes. You would hoard oil for your lamp carefully. Poor people must have looked at the lighted homes of the rich with longing and envy.
Before modern lights, it was common for a house to have one candle or lamp. If someone were to cover the light, they would essentially be putting everyone in the house into the dark. Jesus reminds us that it is foolish to try to cover our light, and that a shining light will be seen and will make a difference. When we remember that the Christ Consciousness is within us each time we allow that connection, we can go out and let our light shine in the world.
How do we do that?
Show your love through kind words and actions. Have hope. Speak words of peace. The joy of Christmas comes from inside. Share your Christmas joy throughout the year!
Share: what can you do to let your light shine more brightly?
Even if you have no money, no power, no status, you are light. There is a power within you that is God, that is light. You don’t need to be afraid.
All these years later, the challenge with this passage is to grasp the truth that Jesus meant what he said. Each of us is the light of the world—we are each an expression of the divine Light we call God, the Source of all life and all love. Our limited human natures are like the bushel basket—coverings that allow us to hide the Light within so completely that we ourselves forget it’s there.
We’re not here in human form to ignore the Light, or to hide it so that no one else can see it. We’re here to be the Light—to let it shine everywhere, affirming the spiritual Presence and Power that is the energy of everything. It’s only by letting our own light shine that we can encourage others to uncover their own inner Light and join us in the spiritual work of creating a new consciousness.
The holidays are holy not for anything we do, but for the consciousness we bring to our acts. This year choose your activities consciously. Be where you want to be, not where you should be. Be with the people you want to be with. Wipe the slate clean of history, tradition, rules, and expectations, and make each day your own. Start a new tradition of soul honoring. Other people can legislate rituals, but only you can—and must—legislate your consciousness. Let joy be your compass.
“Holiday” means “holy day.” Make Every day a holy day.