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My Christmas Story

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A long time ago, a very, very, long time ago, in a land called Judea, lived a young woman by the name of Mary.  She was a loving person, a good person, a nice person to be with.  Everywhere she went, she felt like she was part of All That Is.  And she would express this by saying “God is with me.”  When she walked into a room, people would say that it felt like a breath of heaven had come into the room.

Actually, we don’t really know how Mary was, or what she used to say.  Nobody does.  But I like to tell the story this way to remind me to let Love live in me.

Oh, by the way, not all of the details of this story make sense.  Not all the parts of the story are even possible.  But that’s what makes a good story – it inspires us to go beyond the possible and dream.  A good story should help us walk through our own challenging times.  A good story ought to inspire us to feel, like Mary did, that something wonderfully, powerful, is within us.”  I hope this story will help you feel that way tonight.

I can’t know what the story of Christmas means to you, or whether you have heard it before…I do trust that if you listen with an openness, as if you’re hearing it for the first time, that you will hear something wonderful, just like Mary did one day when, as we say, an Angel spoke to her. We think of angels as messenger of Divine Mind, and one told her that
something wonderful was about to happen to her.  The angel was Gabriel, who by the way was the same angel who spoke to the prophet Mohamed (peace be on Him) and revealed the Koran.  So this same Gabriel told Mary that she would give birth to a child named Jesus, and that this child’s message of love would change the world forever. 

No one knows when or where Mary’s child was born.  Was he born in Bethlehem, as the Bible says? Or was he born in Nazareth, where Mary was when the angel spoke to her?

We don’t really know for sure.  So we tell the story just as if it were a modern day movie.  You have to use your imagination to fill in the details, and skip over the inconsistencies, or you’ll never get to what the story has to offer: The message.

Now some details.  Mary was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph.  Can you imagine what Joseph must have thought when his bride-to-be, Mary, told him she was going to have a baby?  In those days, it was an issue.  So it was a big thing that Joseph decided to marry Mary anyway.  Some say it was because he was a kind man and loved Mary regardless of this inexplicable circumstance in which she found herself.  Some say he was so tuned into his spirituality that he intuitively knew she was telling the truth.  Whatever his reasons, Joseph has ever since been an inspiration to me, to be kind and loyal and to believe the very best about the people in our lives, rather than the very worst.

The story really could have ended right there.  But it didn’t.  The rulers of the day wanted to get an accurate number of how many people lived in that part of the land.

Today, when we count the population, we mail in the information or the counters come to us.  In Mary’s day, it wasn’t that easy.  No computers, no US Mail service…each and every family had to get up and go to the capitol, Bethlehem and be counted individually.

Now that wouldn’t be such a bad thing….unless of course you were nine months pregnant, riding on a donkey…and when you got there…every motel, hotel and inn had a no-vacancy sign.

Just imagine, if you will, arriving late at night after everyone has turned in for the night.  It’s quiet, freezing cold and there is a buzzing energy over the city, as if something very important is about to happen in the world.

Oh Little Town of Bethlehem,/  How still we see thee lie / Above thy deep and dreamless sleep/ The silent clouds go by

By the way, the hills around Bethlehem were like those in Sonoma County.  There were small farms and vineyards outside the city.  And although it is not very likely that shepherds were outside in the freezing cold of winter at night with their sheep…that’s how the story goes.  So, in your mind, you have to turn up the temperature a little and picture the shepherds of Bethlehem Meditating in the hills while the sheep slept.  While shepherds watched their flocks by night…something happened on the hillside outside Bethlehem that night.  What happened, divine inspiration again.  The angel of the Lord came down.  Which I believe is a poetic way of saying that the shepherds were probably so deep in meditation and prayer that they felt completely united with all of creation.  In that frame of mind they knew, they just knew, that something good was about to happen for the world.

Maybe you too have felt that moment when you feel so connected to all of life, that it is like a light turns on inside.  I think that is why the song says that Glory shone all around.  They suddenly got it.  “A Goodness is coming into our world.”

The story says the Angels invited the shepherds to Bethlehem to witness the Birth of Jesus.

We might ask, “Why did they invite the shepherds?”  “Why not invite the mayor or the bankers or the important politicians?”  I think, to make a statement that this Good was for one and all, from the poorest to the richest.

And talking of the richest, and the wisest…at the same time, far far away in another country, the importance of this moment in creation was also being felt.  Why in a distant land?  I think to remind us that God’s good is not bound by race, geography, nationality – it’s for everyone.  It’s a love to which borders are irrelevant.  The importance of this love reached and touched the hearts of people even in distant lands. And they came from far away with gifts to join in the celebration.  By the way, they didn’t have any angelic invitation, they had to read the signs of the time.  They had to consider the heavens.  Did you know that “consider” means to go with the star?  That’s exactly what they did, they followed a bright star “with royal beauty bright, westward leading, guiding them to the perfect light.”

Back in Bethlehem.  Did I mention that every inn, B&B & motel was full?  Well they were, forcing Mary and Joseph to search all over the city to find a place to sleep.  But so many people had traveled to Bethlehem for the same purpose and there simply wasn’t anywhere to stay.

This part of the story is a powerful reminder that sometimes something wonderful is about to happen – despite the fact that circumstances are not perfect.  Think about it!  How would we think about couple of out-of-towners moving into the garage to deliver a child?  It’s not the cozy Christmas scene we typically think of.  But that’s how it was.  Again a reminder, I may not think I’m ready, but good is coming anyway.  No matter what we’re going through or what we look like, no matter what we have done or failed to do.  Good is being born.

Well, someone did let them into the garage for the night.  In those days, it was a barn or stable, the equivalent of our garage.  It was a place where the animals where kept.  And in this plain and ordinary place, “away in manger,” Mary gave birth to the baby that has come to be a symbol of God’s love in the world, which is why he is sometimes called Emanuel, meaning “God with us.”

And there he “…lay down his sweet head, while the stars in the bright sky looked down as he slept on the hay.”  And the shepherds, the animals, the wise men, the angels, even heaven and nature all came to pay their respects to the new born baby, just as all the of the Christian world everywhere pauses tonight to remember the birth of the one who’s message was loving one another.  And heaven and nature sang “Joy to this world.”

Today we honor our Christian brothers and sisters wherever they are in the world, and join them in celebrating the healing power of love, making room for it to be born in our own hearts and minds.


 

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