How is your holiday season going?
On the Christian calendar, we are in Advent, the time preceding the celebration of the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day. On the commercial calendar, we have twelve shopping days until Christmas. And on the Celestial calendar, the solstice is coming.
It’s a wondrous time, and poignant, too. A recent Gallup-Meta survey of people in 142 countries showed that one-fourth of the world’s population is seriously lonely. They found the greatest loneliness in young adults.
Christmas is a time when feelings of loneliness can be most intense. Sixty-one percent of Americans expect to feel sad or lonely this holiday season. Thirty-seven percent say they wish they could skip the holidays altogether.
A huge factor in this social phenomenon is that people don’t feel their part in the Soul Family. And they don’t experience the Love at the core of the Soul Family they are a part of. The Presence of the Supreme Soul, who we celebrate at Christmas, is not experienced, so there is an emptiness in the heart where that Presence rightly resides.
The religions and spiritual paths of world culture try to connect people to spirituality. They teach principles, beliefs, stories, and offer religious icons. And they teach practices that can assist people on their spiritual path. All those forms can be an open door to an experience. All too often, though, those forms are closed doors. They keep people out of a spiritual experience instead of welcoming them into one.
The Christmas Story can be powerful for people. But how often does it bring a person all the way home to what they are looking for? Does it fill the hole in the heart? Or is it just sentimentality that rings hollow after a while? A story can be a doorway into an experience. Hopefully, it’s an open door, not a closed one that says, Look at this. But it is not for you.
In the experience of Attunement, we are connecting to the spiritual root of what animates and inspires us as a human being. Initially, it seems to be something separate from ourselves. But the reality is that Attunement is more than that. It is a process of becoming. We begin to vibrate with what we are attuning to. In that way, we join with it and become an expression of it.
If we are truly attuning to something, and the process follows through to its natural fulfillment, we open to it—we are not just admiring from a distance. We are feeling it. We are receiving it. And we become it. My point is that Attunement is a process of becoming what we’re attuning to. So, if we are attuning to Love, it comes into us and comes out through us. We are becoming an embodiment and expression of Love.
We can see the Christmas Story from many perspectives. But what if we look at it as an Attunement story? A story that gives us an opportunity to know the essence of the story for ourselves? And the essence of the story is the expression and embodiment of the Supreme Soul, bringing peace to humankind.
For the past few days, I’ve felt an urgent desire to enter a church. Not all of my experiences in churches have been good. But I still love being in a building that has been consecrated to the sacred.
I haven’t acted on the urge. But I have been listening to a selection of sacred Christmas choral music—not just Jingle Bells and Here Comes Santa Claus, but carols and choruses that evoked the Christmas Story. They became an open door to an experience.
The problem is that people can experience what should be open doors for them as being shut. They don’t have an experience of Attunement with what the story conveys. They see the religious forms as separate from themselves, portraying something that they could never know for themselves as themselves. And so the forms become empty and unfulfilling. Consequently, so many people have just had it with the Christmas story, religion, and Christmas itself—37% percent of us in America.
It is a little early in the season to quote from the Christmas story in the gospels, as much as I love it—especially Linus’s version of it from the Peanuts movie. But the story is profound and deeply moving when you see it with fresh eyes. Even though we might suspect that translators have tampered with it some, it remains compelling, expressing a truth that is relevant to you and me.
Here are these two young people, Mary probably somewhere in her mid-teens, and Joseph perhaps a little older. And they weren’t married! In an ancient culture. And not just any ancient culture. A Jewish culture with high standards for sexuality and marriage. We can imagine the ridicule they likely suffered.
At the same time, they were aware of the precious significance of the child in Mary’s womb. And what young couple wouldn’t feel that? They perceived this was a child of special importance for humankind, so they were both committed to his welfare. Meanwhile, the Roman Empire controlled their immediate world and viewed the coming man-child as a threat.
To meet the tax demands of the Empire, they had to travel 90 miles. Of course, they had no modern means of transportation. When they arrived at their destination, Mary was ready to give birth, which was likely accelerated by the travel. But there was no place to accommodate them other than a barn.
In this conflicted situation, Joseph and Mary create a safe space for their baby to be born. They held him safe in the cradle of their love. There was little outer form to accommodate what transpired—no hospital, no home, no church, and little social structure. We can only imagine how the aura of love created by these two young people surrounded the child. They were the home. They were the church. He was held safe in their family of two. Yes, the shepherds and the wise men came. But at the core of what transpired were these two young people creating a sacred space for the Christ to be born.
That is the story. Is it a story of them, but not us? Is the story a closed door or an open one?
If the story is to be an open door, leading to our own knowledge and experience, how about this? Mary is you. Joseph is you. The precious Christ spirit is your offspring, to be born today. Through you. Through me. And the church into which the child is to be born is created by us as Mary and Joseph. By what we know and share with each other.
There is a space we create that holds the aura of enfolding Love. We are Mother Mary; we are Joseph, protecting the baby and helping it to be born.
And then there is this beauty that was born as the baby, who is presumably doing what babies do—not too much other than cry and demand to be fed. Nonetheless, we look at a newborn baby and see How magnificent! How sacred! Holy! Breathtaking!
This is a season for the breathtaking. The Christ Spirit is being born. The spirit of the Supreme Soul is being born through all who are open to receive it and let it live in the world.
For us to have this experience, we have to turn to where it comes from. It is not a physical turning. Though it might be expressed and embodied through a physical form, the source of the experience is within us, just as surely as the baby was within Mary.
I could look for that experience in a local church. I’m afraid I would be disappointed. Where do I find the stable where the Christ is to be born? Here, right where I am, with the people near me. This is my church. This is my stable, in the aura of our enfolding Love. This is the safe place we create for the Christ to be born. My church is with you.
We have to turn to the place from where the Christ Spirit comes to receive it into the world. If we are enmeshed in Christmas shopping, we are not turning in the direction from where the emptiness could be filled. I’m not saying you couldn’t have a good shopping experience at Macy’s. I have on occasion. But it’s not from the shopping itself. It was because people I love were there with me.
Here is the gospel—the good news—of the man who the baby grew to become:
The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
For anyone who thinks about it, it can be translated in their mind as It’s coming… In the next century… When I die… Around the corner…
Your hand is right here. The kingdom of heaven is right here.
Isn’t this gospel saying, in essence, This is great! You’re in the middle of beauty and wonders; the kingdom of heaven is at hand?
In early Greek forms of the Bible, Jesus’ gospel was preceded by the word metanoia, which denoted a transformative change of heart and a change of mind. The Hebrew word for metanoia was and is today teshuva, which means return. It can be translated as recover your senses or return to a right mind.
You have to turn to see and know the kingdom of heaven.
In 382 A.D., only two years after the Roman Empire adopted Christianity, the pope commissioned Jerome to create a Latin translation of the Bible for their new state religion. The word metanoia in the Greek Bible became paenitentiam in Latin, a word that was later translated into English as repent. It has the same root as the words punish, penitentiary, and penal colony.
Experience a transformative change of heart and mind: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
The Romans did a good job of robbing Jesus’ good news of heaven’s wonder and immediate availability. They took the open door that Jesus brought to the world and did their best to shut it.
For all who feel the call, we are here to open all the doors that have been shut. We walk through doors to experience the wonder of what is on the other side. We become what we adore. Then where did the loneliness go? It is dispelled by the Reality we come to know. And we become an open door for others.
Behold the Temple of the Living God.
Behold the Presence of the Living God.
I am the Temple of the Living God.
I am the Presence of the Living God.