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CHRISTMAS EVE AND EASTER MORNING
REVEREND BERNADETTE VOORHEES
APRIL 5, 2015
(all rights reserved)


HAPPY EASTER!

My understanding of Easter has changed over the course of my lifetime. Not just deepened, but changed. My childhood memories include singing the great Easter hymns. As a child, I took it for granted that Easter meant that Jesus literally rose from the tomb. It was a day of celebration about Jesus. Today, for me, Easter is an experience. It means that God can be consciously experienced in & through me. It means that as I consciously experience God through prayer, I am raised to a new level of life & freed from the ‘tomb’ of the situation I appear to be in no matter how dark & hopeless it may seem. Easter is a celebration of the experience of resurrecting power of life.

GOSPEL OF JOHN CHAPTER 20:1-18:

Early on the 1st day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb & saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran & went to Simon Peter & the other disciple, the 1 whom Jesus loved & said to them “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb & we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter & the other disciple set out & went toward the tomb. The 2 were running together, but the other disciple out ran Peter & reached the tomb 1st. He bent down to look in & saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, & went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrapping lying there & the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb 1st, also went in & he saw & believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their home.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb; & as she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb & she saw 2 angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head & the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, & I do not know where they have laid him.” Saying this, she turned around & saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. & Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek,?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, & I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned & said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbonni!” (which means teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers & say to them “I am ascending to my Father & your Father, to my God & your God.” Mary Magdalene went & announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” & she told them that he had said these things to her.”

MEDITTION - APRIL SILENT UNITY PRAYER SERVICE

We are unique expressions of God, individual yet one in spirit. As we enter into this quiet time of prayer we shift our awareness from our individuality and focus on the richness of our unity. United in prayer, we weave a magnificent tapestry of love and diversity. Let us enter this time of prayer with a new awareness of our oneness.

I choose to live with a peaceful heart.

As I still my mind and quiet my thoughts, I allow myself to become fully present in this moment. I relax into this time and place and let all else fall away. Nothing can disturb the calm peace of my soul. I set my intention to live with peace in my heart as I move into the silence of prayer ...

God guides me to my highest good.

Attuned to God, I release any limiting thought and give thanks for infinite possibilities. New paths, new ventures rise before me. Filled with light and wisdom, I listen for the inspiration that guides me. I choose with a sense of grace and freedom. I feel the presence of God as love, and I open to my good in the Silence...

I partner with God in caring for my body temple.

I resonate with the idea of God as my partner and co-creator. I speak life-affirming words to every cell, conscious of God’s healing energy flowing throughout my body temple. I make wise decisions that promote my well-being. Affirming wholeness, I am renewed and revitalized in the Silence...

I am swimming in a sea of prosperity.

I am aligned with the divine creative flow, and I am prospered. As heir to the infinite goodness of God, I have no doubt about the source of my supply. I know it is divinely provided. Divine ideas flow to me, abundance surrounds me. I enter the Silence with joyous expectation and gratitude...

Peace in my soul contributes to peace in the world.

Rejoicing in my oneness with God and all humankind, I look beyond any appearance of conflict and see only love. I elevate my thoughts to a consciousness of peace and harmony. I envision peace unfolding in the lives of people around the world. With peace in my soul I see peace in the world as I return to the stillness, in the Silence...

We have joined hearts and minds and immersed ourselves in the presence of divine love. In this tapestry of faith and prayer, we feel a new sense of oneness and fulfillment. We bring our attention back to this moment, giving thanks for the blessings that fill our lives now and for those unfolding before us. In this spirit of thanks, let us affirm together the “Prayer for Protection”:

The light of God surrounds us;
The love of God enfolds us;
The power of God protects us;
The presence of God watches over us.
Wherever we are, God is!

CHRISTMAS EVE & EASTER MORNING

Robert Browning wrote a poem called “Christmas Eve & Easter Day.” It’s 2,000 lines long. A lady once said, “Mr. Browning, I read your poem. What does it mean?” Browning said, “Madam, when I wrote that poem, God & I knew exactly what it meant. Now only God knows.” James Dillet Freeman wrote a much shorter poem for Daily Word called “Christmas Eve & Easter Morning.”

Easter morning and Christmas Eve
Mystically together weave
The humanness of divinity
And our God-likeness to be.
Has ever a story started stranger?
God, an infant, in a manger;
A Cross, that is a symbol,
Not of man’s unkindness but of God’s love.
A crowded Inn where there is no room;
Angels at an empty tomb.
There is singing; can you hear it?
Heaven’s at hand, or very near it.
Look in your heart.
Eternity is there if you’ve the faith to see.
Death’s a dying, life’s a borning
On Christmas Eve and Easter morning.

Christmas & Easter are very different holidays with a common center--Jesus Christ. Some people like Christmas more than Easter. The Easter Bunny & a basket of eggs doesn’t compare to Santa Claus bringing gifts & riding in a sleigh led by 8 tiny reindeer. Easter needs a Clement Moore to write, “Twas the Night Before Easter,” except on the night before Easter, Jesus was dead & laid in a tomb.

Nowadays, Christmas starts with Halloween & it’s all fun. Easter starts with Ash Wednesday. Lent is 40 days of preparation & denial & fasting. Christmas is more of a family & children’s holiday celebrating the birth of a baby. Easter is a grown up church holiday & time of individual reflection. We sing carols on Christmas & on Easter it’s usually the choir or soloist.

In the religious world, Easter is regarded as more important than Christmas. In fact, for the 1st 300 years of Christianity, the early Christians didn’t celebrate Christmas. They thought it was a pagan holiday. They celebrated Easter & Epiphany (the 3 kings who came) because that was the Advent of Christianity to the Gentiles. There was no Christmas for 300 years. But I love the WHOLE STORY from CHRISTMAS to EASTER & I believe you have to know & understand the whole story to really celebrate & be moved by it & learn to live it. JESUS was a great storyteller. He didn’t give people a lot of heavy, hard to understand theology. He told stories that moved people so much that they retold them over & over until someone wrote them down. Nobody knows the exact facts surrounding the life of Jesus. None of the Gospels were written until 30 to 100 years after his crucifixion & that’s a long time. James Dillet Freeman knew the Fillmore’s & he wrote the “Story of Unity” just 2 years after Charles Fillmore died. He said he wrote it because “By then the story was already full of myths.” But people were touched by the story & Unity grew & continues to grow.

Think about your experiences of Christmas & Easter. You probably have pictures of yourself taken at Christmas & Easter at different ages – which image is the real you? The real you is CONSCIOUSNESS which is beating the heart, seeing through eyes, hearing through ears, digesting food, living as life. You are not just a body. You are consciousness, walking around, expressing itself at a visible level.

When you know the principle of life as the experience of the presence of God as your life, then for you Easter means the end of all limitation because CONSCIOUSNESS ISN’T LIMITED. When you REALIZE you’re CONSCIOUSNESS You REALIZE you can’t BE LIMITED OR ENTOMBED BY ANY PERSON, PLACE, THING, OR BY ANY OUTER FORM.

The word EASTER appears only once in the King James Version of the Bible, in the 12th Chapter of Acts. In the Revised Standard Version, the word used is Passover. The rituals of Christmas & Easter were originally designed to remind the early followers of the Jesus movement of the INNER PROCESS OF TRANSFORMATION necessary to experience & release the power of God. But as the Jesus movement evolved into Christianity their true meaning was lost to a literal interpretation & after 325AD, Christmas & Easter became ritualized, holy days to honor the ‘image of Jesus as the only son of God.”

Esoterically, Christmas & Easter represent 2 sides of an equation. 1st the Christ is born in you as your hope of demonstrating the glory of God. This happens when you realize “I am not that thing I see in the mirror.” When you realize you are consciousness & not just the body. This IS REPRESENTED BY THE BIRTH of the CHRIST CHILD AT CHRISTMAS. Then, the moment you DEMONSTRATE Christ CONSCIOUSNESS is more SIGNIFICANT THAN FORM, you have attained Easter consciousness. Whenever you experience yourself as consciousness AS THE SPIRIT BACK OF THE MIND & BODY & NOT MERELY A BODY, you have experienced Easter. You’ve gone beyond a mental, intellectual or emotional awareness of the presence of the Christ self, of the potential of the Christ self, to an experience of the Christ self, as you.

THE WAY THAT YOU KNOW IF YOU’RE FREE & EXPERIENCING YOURSELF AS CONSCIOUSNESS & not just a body is IF YOU CAN USE EVERYTHING & BE USED BY NOTHING. If you care about the stock market going down, you are being used by your stock, if you’re in a relationship where you think, “I couldn’t live without this relationship.” You’re being used by that relationship. “Dominion” according to the 1st chapter of Genesis means that you ‘USE EVERYTHING’ & are not being used by them. Spirit 1st then body. Not being used by your religious pursuits, not being used by the things you know, these are all ‘visible effects’ & you as consciousness are in charge of them. They are not in charge of you.

Another part of the Easter experience in our own lives is the role that Judas played. JUDAS REPRESENTS THE LIFE PRINCIPLE, WHICH has 2 sides, an invisible side & a visible side. Metaphysically, Judas had to betray Jesus in order for Jesus to prove Easter. DENIAL IS A CREATIVE NECESSARY FOR FULFILLMENT OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS. We must ‘LOSE FAITH’ & ‘let go’ of life in some limited visible expression to draw newness into expression from the invisible Source. We must let go of 1 level of being & rise to the next. In every act of creation, there is always a crucifixion before a resurrection; 2 sides to the equation. It’s a process. Old ways of seeing & being must 1st give way to the birth of the Christ. Easter is seeing crucifixion & resurrection as 1 continuous process. You can’t have a renewal without a letting go or death. The Judas’ experiences of life are acts of Divine Love that push us & make us grow. Understanding Faith is trusting in the Christmas/Easter process & knowing everything happens for 1 purpose: To wake us & remake us to be conscious beings. Conscious that we are Being, being.

Adam & Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Why? They seemed to have it all, but THEY DIDN’T because they weren’t Conscious Beings. Adam & Eve represent our thinking & feeling nature, our Mental Level of being. We have evolved from being primarily Physical Beings to Mental Beings. We are now evolving & becoming conscious that we are Spiritual Beings, living in a spiritual world, governed by spiritual law & THAT’S GOOD NEWS, BECAUSE SPIRITUAL IS INCLUSIVE, GRACIOUS, & COMPASSIONATE TO ALL.

Jesus didn’t die for us the way many of us were taught. 2000 years ago Jesus didn’t say, “I’m going to die for Bernadette Voorhees.” He didn’t ‘think” about ‘me’ at all. He “meaning’ the Jesus part of him, had no choice in the matter. Jesus had raised his awareness to the “Christ” self which had to fulfill itself. He “meaning’ the Jesus part of him, died for himself, he died to his lower self, to reveal his real identity & the true nature of God.

We benefit from his example because he showed us the path of evolution & the steps in consciousness needed to follow him on that path. To evolve, we too must shift our identity from our personal self to our spiritual self through the process of inner transformation. As we do, we’ll have some difficult experiences. & We don’t have to say they are wonderful, but we can realize while we are ‘in them’ that a crucifixion always precedes a resurrection; that “He that is within is greater than he that is in the world.” We can “Be of good cheer, no matter what we’re going through, because we are going to get through it, in ways beyond our wildest imaginings because we are not going through it alone, “For I am with you always, even unto the end of the earth.”

James Dillet Freeman tells of such a time when as a young man, his 1st wife was in the hospital dying of cancer. “I went into the chapel. I was alone so I sat down & looked around. There was a crucifix. I never liked crucifixes; I feel they are something put on us by the church to make us feel like we have to go through the crucifix to have a cozy niche in this life. It’s the God of the dead who is hanging up there. I’m not interested in death; I’m interested in life. Unity is a religion of life & never liked them; never used a cross at Unity Village. It’s the Christ in us".

As I sat there praying, gazing at that man on the Cross it was as if I heard God say, “I don’t leave you to suffer alone. I feel what you are feeling; understand what you're going through. I've been hungry & thirsty. I’ve been a stranger. I’ve been naked. I’ve been sick. I’ve been in prison. I’ve been the least among you. Whatever you are going through, however you feel short, I am one with you. I love you.” Isn’t this what we hope our God will be like?" I don’t believe God wills us to suffer. God wills life, joy, fulfillment, & growth. But, if we have to suffer, then in God’s love, He suffers too. He doesn’t leave us alone."

In that chapel I came to see what Jesus means to human beings. Jesus, was born of a woman like us, was a child just as you & I were children, a man who identified Himself with the least of us, who pours out His love on the worst of us & draws forth the best in all of us by identifying with a God you can feel close to & identify with. I learned to identify with Jesus. He lived our lives. Thought our thoughts, hoped our hopes, faced our fears, suffered our agonies, died our death & rose beyond suffering & dying to tell us that we too, have in us that which is more than mortal, more than death & dying, that which is life eternal.

I’ll close with a story from one of Jim Freeman’s last books called "The Hilltop Heart." “When I 1st moved to the farm where I live, growing outside my window was a cherry tree--aged, stunted, twisted, black. 1 stormy night, this miserable little tree broke off at the ground. When I examined the stump, I found it crawling with termites, so I hacked the stump back to the ground & poured creosote over it & all around it. I then forgot the tree. But when spring came, up from that mutilated tortured stump a twig appeared. The twig grew into a stem & the stem put forth branches & leaves. I asked the Nurseryman if he thought there was any chance that the thing would live & bear fruit. He said, “None at all! It’s valueless. Chop it down!”

But I didn’t chop it down. That has now been many, many years. That little tree did not die; it grew. All the years I’ve lived here, I’ve picked cherries from it--red delicious perfect cherries--at least enough for a pie or two. If It were an orchard of cherry trees, it couldn’t give so much to me - for that little tree glows with life-colored in my heart. & even more than cherries, I’ve gathered courage from it. “Life is stronger than death,” says the tree. Whatever appearances may be, never accept them.

15 years ago the tree broke off again. And again from the shattered stump came up yet another twig that has grown into yet another tree. That tree lives & stands for life, putting forth its blooms and cherries. That tree has been blooming all this week. I think of it as my Easter message from God. There have been times in my life when I have felt shattered too. But I’m still growing, putting forth blooms and cherries.

And so friends, this is the message of Easter: Find courage, keep faith, then through all your Inns where there isn’t any room and all your wicked Herods, and your Ash Wednesdays and your Good Fridays, you may hear Jesus saying to you as He said to One He loved long ago: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”

I’m grateful for Unity’s great teaching of the Christ in us.

But as I journey along this often lonely stretch of the way, I’m grateful that I can, from time to time, reach out & feel the warm & encouraging hand of my friend & elder brother Jesus.

Jesus is the love of God in human form, with warm eyes I the gentle touch of love itself & there are times when we all need that.

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