I imagine you’ve heard a version of this story before: When the angels said, “O Mary, indeed God gives you the good news, whose name will be Jesus, held in honor in this world and in the Hereafter, and of those who are near to God. He will speak to the people in the cradle, and in old age, and he will be of the righteous.”
[At which point, Mary answered], “How can I have a son when no man has touched me?”
“When [God] decides something, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is. And He will teach him the Book and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel. And (will make him) a messenger to the Children of Israel (saying), ‘I make for you out of clay the likeness of a bird, then breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by the permission of God. And I heal the blind and the leper, and I bring the dead to life by the permission of God. Indeed, God is my Lord and your Lord. This is the straight path.”
Isn’t that a beautiful narrative?
As I’ve said so many times before, there is a universal story that was particularized by Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. There is a universal story that was particularized by Frodo in The Lord of the Rings. And there is a universal story that was particularized in the nativity narratives.
And while each of these universal stories was beautifully particularized by these individuals in space and time, to imagine such stories as limited to any one space and time is to relegate a present truth to a distant history.
For these universal stories do what universal stories do: they call for particularization through each of us, even now. These universal stories remind us that even when we find ourselves tossed from Kansas or facing Mount Doom or navigating winter’s dark night, there is a greater possibility within us longing for recognition and release.
Unity Co-founder Charles Fillmore, in one writing, equates stars to the psychic experience and certainly, I wouldn’t disagree. So, given this, let’s consider just what it might have been like to be in a gathering of people who had a compelling vision, a profound knowing if you will, about a higher way of being together (and it seems clear to me that in rising from a people as oppressed as the 1st-Century Jews and Jewish-Christians, the nativity narrative certainly represented a higher way of being together – no longer as subjects in an imperially-driven world marked by power but as equals in a divinely-inspired world marked by justice).
Just imagine the questions they would have had to navigate from their spouses, their parents, their friends, their peers: “So, let me get this straight. You have a vision, a knowing, for a higher way of being together; you have a vision, a knowing, for a higher way of being together, so you’re just gonna take off and walk across the dessert with your little friends.” Can you imagine the questions?
In truth, I’m willing to bet that you can. I’m willing to bet that you can because isn’t this the way of race consciousness? I’m willing to bet that you can because I’m willing to bet that you, too, have had a vision, a knowing, for a higher way of being. I’m willing to bet that you’ve had a vision for a business. I’m willing to bet that you’ve had a knowing for a relationship. I’m willing to bet that you’ve caught a glimpse of that cosmic star of inspiration if you will, representing something so counter to what others see that at least one person in your world responded by saying, “So, let me get this straight.”
And what place might this tale have assumed in history if these magi – if these seers – had responded by saying, “Wow, you know you’re absolutely right. We really must have lost our minds for a moment. Thank you for reminding us that this really is a crazy idea. Clearly, this deep knowing should wait until the dishes are done. Clearly, this deep knowing should wait until the kids are grown. Clearly, this deep knowing should wait until I have all of my stuff handled.
And please – if you take one idea from this discussion, let it be this: Don’t wait until you have all of your stuff handled to show up for your life. An eternally unfolding soul will always be challenged by an ego with stuff that desperately needs to be handled.
But they didn’t.
These magi – these seers - didn’t wait until the dishes were done, they didn’t wait until the kids were grown, they didn’t wait until they had all of their stuff handled. They followed. They demonstrated that divine moment of “yes-ness,” of obedience, of welcome, that divine moment of permission.
Now, see if you can relate to this: perhaps if the journey had been easy, these magi wouldn’t have had to stop and ask for directions. If that star which had first drawn them from their mundane lives had remained visible throughout the journey, they would have walked in a straight line directly to the house, dropped their loot and returned home.
But they didn’t. We can infer that at least once, they lost sight of that star (can anyone relate) because they stopped and asked for directions. We can infer that at least once, they had to reconnect to the purpose which drew them forth in the first place.
At which point I say, “Well, welcome to the human experience.” For isn’t it easy for those cosmic stars of inspiration to become obscured by the clouds of our own humanity? Isn’t it easy for that vision, for that knowing, to become obscured by the clouds of doubt and history – by what some might call evidence.
So, our magi stopped and asked for directions. And what we come to understand is that the very inspiration which would call them from their mundanity, the very inspiration which they sought to foster, The worldly authority sought to destroy.
Emilie Cady addressed this dynamic in her classic text Lessons in Truth when she wrote, and I paraphrase, “Suppose an individual has become solidified in a wrong belief. You introduce a Truth. The very newness of it creates new hope, new joy, and health.
“But after a little time, a sort of agitation begins to take place. One is apt to feel nervous in the depths. If he has been sick, he will begin to feel old diseases; if she has been morally weak, old desires and habits may take possession of her with new force; if they have been holding denials and affirmations about business affairs until matters begin to improve, all at once they collapse and seem darker and more hopeless than ever. All the new beliefs that lifted the individual into a new world seem failures.
"What’s happened?” she asks.
“Simply this.” she answers.
“There has been a clash between the old condition and the new thought. The old mortal is kicking vigorously against the Truth."
And, so it is with our tale. When the status quo is challenged by that cosmic star of inspiration, by a new vision, by a new knowing, all that represents the status quo the old beliefs rise up as if to say, “Are you absolutely sure about this?”
Get a new idea of value, and all that represents your old idea of value rises up as if to say, “Are you absolutely sure about this?”
Get an expanded idea of relationship, and all that represents your old idea of relationship rises up as if to say, “Are you absolutely certain about this?”
I wonder if we – as a global community – are experiencing this chemicalization (this second force) as described by Cady. I wonder if the tremendous friction apparent in modern life might be the out-picturing of an old condition kicking vigorously against a new consciousness, a violent thrashing seeming to rise up as if to say, “Are you absolutely certain about this?”
If so, maybe this possibility presents us with at least some hope. After all, Cady promises, “[While] the old mortal is kicking vigorously against Truth, something higher and better always results."
And yet again, I suppose our tale could have ended at this point. Perhaps we wouldn’t even blame our magi – our seers – if they had given up.
But, as we all know, our magi – our seers – continue to their destination, drop their loot, and in what I think is one of the easily-missed moments of our tale, they return home – but not by the same paths which brought them.
And this is why I say, don’t wait until you get all of your stuff handled to show up for your life. For you see, it was in showing up for their lives that our magi became new.
And, so it is that as we embark upon one of Truth’s most significant weeks (and I say “Truth’s most significant weeks” because universal stories cannot be claimed by any one people – you understand that our opening nativity narrative wasn’t from the Bible but from the Quran), as we embark upon one of Truth’s most significant weeks, I would invite us to begin as our magi began. I would invite us to return to the beginning of our tale – not to that beginning which is written, but to that beginning which is so undeniably self-evident. For while we won’t find it in the text, mustn’t we infer that there would be no tale at all if our magi – if our seers – hadn’t looked up? Mustn’t we infer that there would have been no star, no journey, no change, no return, if our magi hadn’t somehow made themselves available to that cosmic star of inspiration, to that vision, to that knowing in the first place?