During this Christmas Season, I want to share my own experience and understanding of what Jesus taught. I don’t want to represent this as what he was really saying. That would be presumptuous. And I don’t want to fall into the common trap of taking sacred scripture and using it as a stick to hit people over the head for being flawed. So, I will simply share what I know to be true for myself related to the record that has come down to us of his words.
I have done some research, which was illuminating for me. I researched how people have translated Jesus’ teachings over the centuries and how those translations morphed over time, with certain meanings creeping in that religious institutions have used as a club. And I looked back as far as I could to the earliest translations, and then at how those same words were used in an earlier context. I looked back to an original Hebrew word and the Aramaic version of it. Scholars think that Jesus likely taught in Aramaic, the most common language in Israel at the time. Greek was also a common language throughout the Roman Empire, and some suppose that he may have taught in Greek. So, I looked back at the earliest Greek translations, later Latin translations, and then our English translations. I am not going to take you through all that here. Perhaps I will write about it at another time. I will simply share what I’ve come to.
So I invite you to be with me on this journey, to open to your highest knowing and let it come through.
What is the nature of spiritual awakening and transformation? Doesn’t it begin with what is represented by the word turn? If we do not turn, nothing else happens. We have to turn to the Source of Life to receive its uplifting, enlightening power. If there is no turning, nothing else is on, spiritually speaking. As long as we are totally involved in the issues of the world in which we live, we are not open to receive from Source. If we are entangled in the problems of the social structure of our world, our culture, our immediate family, and the issues of our life, we are not turning, and we don’t receive.
Imagine yourself on a sunny day. You have your back to the sun. Maybe you can feel the sun on your back, but you would like to feel the sun on your face. And so, you turn to face the sun. You might look up to see where the sun is. But if you stand there facing the sun for a few moments, you will feel its warmth on your face.
That is how genuine turning is. It is not something physical that you are turning to face. And you can’t see it. But it is as real as that physical sun. If you turn to it—you open your thoughts to it, your heart, and your spirit—you feel the warmth of it coming into you, do you not?
I am a sailor. When sailing, it is crucial to know where the wind is coming from. With the wind, you do not have the advantage that you have with the sun. There is no place you can look to find the origin of the wind. It is invisible.
It is not a very nautical thing to do, and probably frowned on by sailors, but it is very effective to lick your finger and hold it in the wind. The side that gets cool faces the direction from which the wind is coming.
Without resorting to that, I found something else that is effective. If your head is facing directly into the wind, the sound of the wind and the feel of it blowing past both ears is the same. It is a simple little trick but effective. You know you are facing the wind when you can feel it equally on both sides of your face and ears.
Turning to face the Source of Life is like that. You turn, and you can feel the surge of it coming to you when you face it directly. You can feel its invigoration. You can feel its warming power. You can feel it lifting your spirits. You can feel it drawing you into wholeness.
There is a word that includes that word turn—return.
Return. Come back. Come to me. Join me here.
Where are we returning to? We were each born into this world. We had our own first Christmas. Seemingly, we came from nowhere. But we did come from the Source of All Life, however we conceive that to be. We were born out of an invisible realm, and then became visible. And so, we might call that invisible realm home. We came from an invisible heavenly home, not an earthly one. We were born out of that heavenly reality into the world, to become a human being. And so, what we hear from Source is the invitation to return to that home.
If we wanted to put it off, we could add “when you die.” And if we had a broken view of our life, we might even seek to end our life to come home now. But that is not the invitation. The invitation is to go home now in life, to return to that invisible place and allow it to be real to us in the visible.
Something happens when we turn and return. Very simply, we are changed as a human being. The Greek word for change is metanoia. Very literally, metanoia means “to change your mind.” That could seem like an offhand thing. You were going to have chocolate ice cream. But you changed your mind, and now you will have vanilla. But in the context we are thinking of, we have the impression that metanoia means far more than that. It implies a change of heart, and a spiritual change too. We become someone different than we were.
With metanoia, we find ourselves and become ourselves in a way that we were not before. We become an expression of the truth of who we are. Our human spirit becomes ennobled. We become an expression of the ordering power of Love, and we know the glory of that experience.
At the same time, we have entered a reality, and that reality has entered us and come through us to be born into our world. This is the Christmas story. The Christ spirit was born in that little baby boy, but much more was happening. It was born into the world through him, as him. His earthly form dwelt in that reality. And that reality entered him and entered the world. Such is the nature of what we are speaking of in this Christmas season.
We are coming home. I would also put it this way: We are coming into an invisible world.
Can you feel it? There is a reality that is available to you that you can enter. You can feel its wholeness; you can feel its strength; you can feel its power; you can feel its surround, just as surely as you feel the sun on your face. It is a reality. And we know it because we have entered it, and then it penetrates us—not as some abstract idea or belief but as something real. It is an invisible world that has the potential to become a visible world for us. It has the potential to become our world.
That world has an atmosphere and feeling to it. It has a spirit. Entering that world, you feel the glory of it. You feel the honor, the beauty, and the majesty of it.
At Christmas, we celebrate how we receive the Christ spirit in a lowly place in ourselves, just as the Christ Child was born in a lowly place—a stable. Entering the heavenly home does not inspire arrogance. I’m so great that I got to be in this beautiful world!
We do not start crowing about it. It is humbling to come into that kind of majesty, to feel the honor of that place, and to feel its ennobling power. How does the Christmas carol say it?
Fall on your knees; O hear the Angel voices!
The word that has come down to us through the centuries for the invisible world we return home to is kingdom. A physical kingdom is a land, but it is a world for its inhabitants.
It is so interesting that the words that have come down to us speak of it in two ways. We enter the kingdom.
Unless you return like children, you will not enter the kingdom…
But then, one of the most important teachings that have come down to us, attributed to Jesus, speaks of the kingdom coming into this world.
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9,10)
This is that kind of kingdom. We can come into it, and it can come into us and through us.
Here is another word that is closely related to the word return—reciprocate. In fact, if you look up the origin of the word return, it references the word reciprocate and vice versa.
To reciprocate means “to go back the way you came.” And so, to return is to reciprocate. But it does not end there because, as I was just describing, there is a reciprocating relationship between the heavenly home and the earthly home—we enter the heavenly reality, and it enters us.
As shamans, we walk between worlds. It is actually one world, and the rupture in the human experience splits one world into two parts. Humankind is left with one half of one world—the earthly part. And so, the Christmas message is about returning and reciprocating. It is about the correspondence between these two worlds. It is not as if we came here and for our seventy years, or whatever it is, we are stuck in the physical with no relationship with the invisible. And then we go back to heaven (if we are lucky) and have no relationship with the material. The truth is a correspondence through life that is possible, an ongoing reciprocation. The heavenly powers of love and light, and the glory of life, empower the earthly. What is generally not known in our culture is that the earthly has a gift to give back to the heavenly.
The word return could have two meanings in this context. It could mean to return ourselves. I suppose someone might think that if we were to return totally, we would no longer be here. But the word has another meaning: “To return something to the place of origin”—to give back, to reciprocate. In this case, to reciprocate the gift of the manifest to the invisible. To give back our love—we receive love, and we return love. We receive the glory of life, and we give back glory. We receive the source of joy, and we give back joy.
Here is part of the origin of the word correspond: “To be in agreement. To be in harmony with. To harmonize, reciprocate. To answer.” We are here to correspond with this invisible world, to have a relationship that is ongoing, interactive, and real.
The biblical translation is that the invisible world is at hand. But what does at hand mean to you? I’ll give you a few possible definitions; first, the more distant one. It is that it is coming. Perhaps soon. Perhaps tomorrow. Next year. Next century. But it is not here now.
But if you take it more literally, where is your hand? Your hand is right here. So, this invisible world is as close as your hand. It is here.
I want to give you another way to understand what is being said that is perhaps closer to the meaning of Jesus’ original teaching. I will say it and own it for myself and invite you to do the same.
This invisible world is available to you immediately because I am here.
It is always available to you. It was available yesterday, and it will be available tomorrow. It is eternally available. And I could tell you that. I could say the kingdom of heaven, this source reality, is forever available to you. And you might nod your head and say, “Right.”
But I am saying something more. Yes, it is eternally available, but it is immediately available to you because I am here, and I am knowing it myself. And I do not see it as a world up there or over there. For me, this world is right here. I am living in this world, and you are part of this world that I am living in that corresponds with the earthly world. My human world corresponds with this invisible world, and you are in it—one world. The kingdom of heaven is here for you immediately because I am here.
That is different, is it not? It carries profound spiritual meaning. Interpretation of a spoken teaching by the human mind makes all the difference. In the two thousand years since Jesus lived, who knows who did what to what he originally said?
I could say I feel I know what he brought. I can say that when I look at the historical record of how it was written down and how it changed over the years, it verifies what I know to be true. But ultimately, what I hang my hat on is what I know for myself, and ultimately that is what has spiritual currency for today. What carries the day for the world is what we turn to, what we open to, how we ourselves correspond with the world of Source, and what we know for ourselves. And then it comes down to something that Jesus had in large measure: courage. This is the courage to stand in what you know and share the spirit and truth of what you know in the world.
Here is my rephrasing of the words that have come down to us, taking advantage of some of the original translations and simply what I know to be true.
Return. Come home. The holy world is immediately available to you because I am here.
I invite you to say those words for yourself, if you will.
Return. Come home. The holy world is immediately available to you because I am here.