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Don't Be Afraid




The Christ is that rememberer which resides in every human heart.  It’s that rememberer which resides in every human heart – whispering of sufficiency even amidst the appearance of lack; whispering of harmony even amidst the appearance of discord; whispering of wisdom even amidst the appearance of confusion; and yes, whispering of life, even amidst the appearance of death.


In so many ways, the Christ is that rememberer which resides in every human heart – whispering of hope even amidst the appearance of despair.


The Christ is that rememberer which resides in every human heart – whispering of oneness even amidst the convincing appearance of separateness that is a human incarnation; whispering that no matter how different our candles might look, the flame we share is the same.


And when this Christ – when the rememberer which resides within every human heart is awakened in one’s awareness, we tend to look at the individual who has awakened it and say, “Ah, that must be the Christ.”


In such moments, we make the Christ a human and over time, we begin to beseech those few to share of their fruits, as if they might relieve us from the effects of our own choices, relieve of from any personal responsibility, relieve us from any meaningful change. Were we able to hear the prayers which rise from this tendency, we would hear something akin to, “Dear Jesus, give us greater wisdom,” though we would cling to our blindness,” and, “Dear Jesus, give us greater harmony,” though we would cling to our selfishness.  We would hear, “Dear Jesus, give us greater sufficiency,” though we would cling to our struggles,” and, “Dear Jesus, give us greater life,” though we would cling to our limitations.


Today’s planet itself seems to reverberate with the tensions of, “Dear Jesus, give us greater peace,” though we would cling to our violent ways.

So, it’s in this holy season that we celebrate a man, yes – a Jewish healer, wisdom teacher, itinerant preacher and social change agent – who (we might say) so awakened that universal Christ in heart and hand that be became known as Jesus Christ or as Jesus the Christ.


But it’s also in this holy season that we celebrate that universal Christ itself – that rememberer which resides in every human heart.


For to celebrate Jesus as the great exception is but to offer a half celebration.  It’s only as we celebrate Jesus as the great example of what’s possible for all souls in human form that we truly begin to honor his ministry.


Now: we in Unity tend to be metaphysically-minded.  And to be metaphysically minded isn’t some new trend.  The Jewish context from which stories such as this season’s nativity narrative arose would have presumed several layers of meaning from the literal-factual to the mystical-metaphorical.


Now, while it’s easier (tidier, maybe) to consider that it’s all factual or that it’s all metaphorical, those Biblical writers writing for different audiences, writing with different agendas, writing in different contexts, writing from different histories were sadly unaware of our modern desire for ease.


While it’s easier to consider that it’s all factual or that it’s all metaphorical, it’s not.  Sometimes it’s factual.  Sometimes it’s metaphorical.  May times it’s all of the above.  So, while it’s not easy, it’s wildly important that we stop metaphorizing the Bible’s facts and factualizing the Bible’s metaphors.


So, we in Unity tend to be metaphysically minded.  This simply means that we tend to favor the mystical-metaphorical end of the spectrum of meaning.  We tend to interpret biblical places, events, things and characters as aspects of self.  Adam and Eve represent aspects of self – thinking and feeling as example.  Mountains and valleys represent aspects of self – higher consciousness and lower consciousness as example.


In these layers of meaning, I like to say that the Bible can be their story, the Bible can be our story, and the Bible can be my story, all at the same time.


And for me, the nativity narratives – aside from their factuality or non-factuality – have deep metaphysical meaning.  In other words, the nativity narratives have rich value for each of us seeking to give rise to something of the highest that’s within us.


SHEPHERDS

The nativity narrative begins with shepherds.


It strikes me as notable that this story doesn’t begin with high priests or religious scholars.  In modern terms, this story doesn’t begin with those who’ve graduated from ivy league schools or with those who’ve climbed the social ladder.


Even today, we tend to imagine some as being just a little closer to God than others, whether a shaman or a teacher or a mystic or a pope.  We tend to imagine that Deepak Chopra and Eckart Tolle just have a little better connection to God than we do.


But our nativity narrative doesn’t begin with high priests or religious scholars.  Our nativity narrative begins with simple, vulnerable, honest, hard-working, out-of-doors people lacking all manner of sophistication and achievement.  Our nativity begins with everyman, we might say.


And we’re told that these shepherds keep watch by night.  We’re told that it’s in the darkness that the heavenly light dawns.  It’s in the silence that the angels’ song comes.

And so it is that these shepherds seem to remind us that it’s not through our busy –ness it’s not through our money, our titles, our status, our accomplishments – that the heavenly light dawns, that the angels song comes.  It’s in the silence.


These shepherds seem to remind us that if we would give rise to the highest that’s within us, we might have to get quiet once in a while.  We might have to pull our attention from beeping technologies and trending gadgets, our latest fears and social obligations.  These shepherds seem to remind us that if we would give rise to the highest that’s within us, we might have to pull our attention from everything that might describe a modern Christmas.

The encouragement of these shepherds is pure availability, and their journey begins with the reassurance, “Don’t be afraid.”


THE MAGI

And our nativity narrative continues with magi.  It was in the Gospel of Matthew that a writer summarized a visit by an unspecified number of astrologers or seers – roles carrying none of the stigma of today, by the way.


These magi observe the appearance of a special star in the sky and begin to follow it, without knowing to where or to what it might lead.


And isn’t it wonderful that inspiration comes to the shepherds as an angel and to the magi as a star?  Isn’t it wonderful that inspiration comes to each in a manner which each can accept?


Isn’t it wonderful to consider that inspiration comes to the rich and the poor, to the eastern and the western; to the Jew and the Christian and the Buddhist and the Taoist and the Confucian; to the naturist and the agnostic and the atheist in a manner which each can accept?


Can we really read this into these stories?  I think we can.  Inspiration comes to all in a manner which each can accept.  Together, the Jewish shepherds of the west and the gentile magi of the east remind us of our oneness in God.  They remind us of Unity’s first Tenet, really, that there is a singular ground of being.  Your tradition differs from my tradition because you differ from me.  Diversity among traditions, you see, is just as divinely ordained as diversity among humans.


The writer details that this unspecified number of visitors (described as basically being from over there somewhere) brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh – three items the Queen of Sheba offered Solomon in Israel; three items the king offered Apollo at the temple some 250 years earlier.


So, the old lyric, “We three kings of orient are bearing gifts we traverse afar,” isn’t really a very good lyric, you see.  It might have better been penned as, “Some kings, from way over there, travelling far with three gifts to share,” would have been much better.

These magi observe the appearance of a special star in the sky and begin to follow it, without knowing to where or to what it would lead.


These magi seem to remind us that if we would give rise to the highest that’s within us, we might have to commit once in a while.  Imagine if our magi’s narrative had ended with seeing the star.  Imagine if our magi’s narrative had required no courage, no faith, no vulnerability, no resistance, no inconvenience.  That would have been a poor story.

But it didn’t.  Our magi’s narrative depicts souls who undertook the journey, complete with the very best they had to offer.


The encouragement of these magi is total obedience, and their journey begins with the reassurance, “Don’t be afraid.”


Now actually, this line is missing from the magi's story, but if you’ve ever begun to follow a divine idea without knowing to where or to what it would lead, you know that it was just an editorial oversight.


And their journey most certainly begins with the reassurance, “Don’t be afraid.”


MARY

So, to this point, our nativity narrative begins by suggesting that there is no life more deserving or less deserving, no life more capable or less capable, no life more connected or less connected, no life more worthy or less worthy than any other; that from shepherds in a field to magi in the east, God is fully present and never absent.  It might be said that our nativity narrative begins by suggesting that it’s everyone’s narrative.


And of course, that narrative continues with Mary – a woman of such sweeping import that her name appears more often in Islam’s Quran than in Christianity’s Bible.  It’s at this pinnacle moment in the infancy narrative that the angel says to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; the holy offspring to be born of you will be called Son of God.”


As I’ve said before, by all worldly accounts, this underage peasant girl was wildly ill-prepared and completely ill-equipped.


And yet while we tend to reject ill-prepared and ill-equipped as deficits to be overcome, I would suggest that this narrative extends them as necessities to be embraced.  I would suggest that ill-prepared and ill-equipped are powerful positions for transformation for it’s only as we recognize that, of our ego selves, we’re ill-prepared and ill-equipped that our spiritual selves rise from their dormancy.  As I’ve said before, humility and power are fond bedfellows.


Yet again, I would suggest that at every pinnacle moment – at every jump point (if you will) – in human evolution, you’ll find at the center at least one soul who was wildly ill-prepared and completely ill-equipped, for change cannot rise from the arrogance of comfort.


Our narrative finds Mary at a threshold between the life that has been and the life that would be.  Mary seems to remind us that if we would give rise to the highest that’s within us, we might have to cross such a threshold with a consciousness that expresses itself in her timeless and transcendent words, “Let it be.  Let it be.”


The encouragement of Mary is humble willingness, and her journey begins with the reassurance, “Don’t be afraid.”


JOSEPH

And at last, our narrative continues with Joseph.  Now, while the birth annunciation was delivered to Mary in Luke, it was delivered to Joseph in Matthew.


And while the Luke narrative has completely overshadowed the Matthew narrative in our collective memory, Joseph is the central character in Matthew’s story.  Mary doesn’t speak.  Mary receives no revelation.  There’s no manger, no swaddling clothes, no stable, no angels.  Even the birth itself is mentioned only in passing.


It would make the most boring Christmas pageant ever!


It was in a dream that the angel visits Joseph, explains that the child within Mary was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and that his name would be Emmanuel, or "God With Us."

“Take Mary as your wife,” the angel says.  And when Joseph awakens, he does what he was told.  He takes Mary to be his wife.


And what does the archetypal father do?  What is the archetypal father’s role?  The archetypal father cherishes, nurtures and protects that which has been entrusted to him, even in the face of society’s cynicism and smallness.


You might have an idea that isn’t understood.  It’s the Joseph in you that will have to cherish it, nonetheless.  You might have a perspective that isn’t common.  It’s the Joseph in you that will have to nurture it, nonetheless.  You might have a truth that isn’t acceptable.  It’s the Joseph in you that will have to protect it, nonetheless.


If the encouragement of the shepherds is pure availability; if the encouragement of the magi is total obedience; if the encouragement of Mary is humble acceptance, then the encouragement of Joseph is fierce love and his journey begins with the reassurance, “Don’t be afraid.”


So, maybe on the factual end of our spectrum, these characters gathered in their tableau because the Christ appeared.


But maybe on the metaphorical end of our spectrum, the Christ appeared because these characters gathered in their tableau.


In other words, I really quite prefer to consider that the rememberer which resides within every human heart is made most welcome with every choice to pause from today’s world with its constant shouting and its tenacious fearmongering and to fashion a space for quiet; is made most welcome with every choice to “keep watch by night.”


I really quite prefer to consider that the rememberer which resides within every human heart is made most welcome with every choice to look up from the circumstances of daily life, to catch a glimpse of higher possibility, and to give our very best to that higher possibility, even without knowing to where or to what that journey might lead.


I really quite prefer to consider that the rememberer which resides within every human heart is made most welcome with every choice to say, “Let it be;” with every choice to say, “Yes,” when we find ourselves at life’s pinnacle moments; no matter how ill-prepared, no matter how ill-equipped we might believe ourselves to be.


And finally, I really quite prefer to consider that the rememberer which resides within every human heart is made most welcome with every choice turn from society’s cynicism and smallness and to cherish, nurture and protect that which we trust to be holy, even though it might yet be unseen, ever-trusting in the inspiration that seems to accompany every such charge, “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid.”

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