UNITY OF VANCOUVER
THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT
At the heart of Jesus’ ministry was
love—love for God, love for one another, love for self.
When we center ourselves in love, everything changes. “Whoever
does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
Relax your physical body and imagine yourself resting in the presence of God as Love and begin holding the idea: “I establish God as Love on the throne on my heart that I may no longer judge according to appearances and that I may govern my whole life according to Divine Will.”
In Your great love Father/Mother God, I find my completion and the fulfillment of all my hopes and desires. In you, dear God, I find my divine birthright. As I pray, may Your Peace, Love and Wisdom within me be a continual messenger from You, proclaiming Your birth inside of me to all of life on earth and send peace and good will toward all life. I pray to be a channel through which harmony and love freely flow and increase on the whole of earth until man is attuned with man, until nation is attuned with nation; until all of the elements are attuned with man and nature’s needs and all are attuned with You dear God and express only Your good and glory.
Christ of God, in me indwelling, I celebrate with praise and thanksgiving the conception of Your life inside of me. In this moment I freely allow the rebirth of love, peace and hope to take place. Moment by moment let my mind and heart be impregnated by seeds of Your love, joy and compassion, that these heavenly qualities may express through me. Let more of Your beauty, wisdom and power come into birth and manifest on earth through me revealing to humanity Your everlasting glory. In every cell of my mind and body, Christ Love dwells and is taking over my heart, my mind, my body and my life.
Inharmony cannot exist in me because I am a miracle of God. No fear can last inside of me because I am the love of God made manifest in the world today. I allow Divine Love to infill every thought of my mind. I am a walking light of God broadcasting Divine Love to everyone and everything. I am a living manifestation of God’s love in the world today and I am ready to walk forth to put the Christ in Christmas not only for myself but for all others; for as God’s love, I am agreeing to give myself away and agreeing to spread and multiply the love that I am willing to receive and give away. I close this time of prayer by speaking the Prayer Of Protection. The light of God surrounds me; the love of God enfolds me; the power of God protects me; the presence of God watches over me. Wherever I am, God is, and all is illumined and blessed. Amen.
MARY’S MESSAGE: FEAR NOT, ABIDE IN LOVE
Thomas Holmes was the first to develop a Stress Scale so we can measure stress in our lives at any given time. For example: Job loss was 35 pts, Getting married 50 pts, moving to a new city 25 pts. Just living through a typical Christmas season is 14 stress points. If your stress points add up to a score over 200, you're in danger of a nervous breakdown.
Bridget Kuhns took Holmes scale and applied it to the Virgin Mary on the first Christmas. She calculated any pregnancy worth 40 points; an unplanned pregnancy adds 20 points and she adds more stress points for having to tell your parents you're pregnant and still a virgin. Mary moved in with her cousin Elizabeth for three months, that's 25 more points. Marrying Joseph, an older man she didn't know, adds another 50. Kuhns speculates that a family argument might have happened when Joseph failed to make reservations at an inn in Bethlehem producing another 35 points. She adds 31 points for changes in eating and sleeping habits; in addition, 9 months pregnant, riding a donkey and all those guests: angels, shepherds, three kings arriving and leaving. Holmes reported that people get sick at the 200-point level. Kuhns calculated Mary’s stress status at least 424.
We experience stress when we feel apart from God and at odds with each other. But there’s no need for this stress because God is with us and everything is always in Divine Order. God is always more than one step ahead of us, preparing the way.
I have an inspiring true story for you this morning, from a 1983 Guideposts Magazine. A personal experience, told in her own words by Diane Rayner of Bellevue, Washington.
She says, "I grew up believing Christmas was a time when strange and wonderful things happened, when wise and royal visitors arrived riding, when at midnight the barnyard animals talked to one another and in the light of a fabulous star God came down to us as a little child. Christmas to me has always been a time of enchantment and never more so than the year when my son Marty was 8 yrs old. That was the year my children and I moved into a cozy trailer home in a forested area just outside of Redmond, Washington.
As the holiday approached, our spirits were light. Throughout December, Marty had been the most spirited of all of us. He was my youngest, a cheerful boy, blond-haired and playful, with a quaint habit of looking up at you and cocking his head like a puppy when you talked to him. Actually, the reason for this was that Marty was deaf in his left ear, but it was a condition that Marty never once complained about.
For weeks I'd been watching Marty. I knew something was going on with him that he wasn't telling me about. He eagerly did his chores and silently collected his tiny allowance & tucked it away, spending not a cent of it. I suspected whatever was going on had to do with Kenny. Kenny was Marty's friend and ever since they'd found each other in the spring they were seldom apart. If you called one, you got both. Then one would a whisper to the other and they'd be out the door, sliding cautiously under the electric fence that separated our home from Kenny's.
Times were hard for our little family and we had to scrimp to get by. With my job as a meat wrapper and with a lot of ingenuity around the trailer, we managed to have elegance on a shoestring. But not Kenny's family, they were desperately poor, and his mother was having a real struggle just putting food on the table and clothing her two children. They were a good solid family, but Kenny's mom was very proud, and she had strict rules.
One night just before Christmas Marty came to me and said in a tone mixed with pleasure and pride, 'Mom, I've bought Kenny a Christmas present. Want to see it?"
So that's what he'd been up to, I said to myself, 'It's something he's wanted for a long time, Mom." With pride he pulled a small box from his pocket, lifted the lid and there was a little compass to point an 8-year-old adventurer through the woods.
"It's a lovely gift, Martin”, I said, but even as I spoke, a disturbing thought came to mind. I knew how Kenny's mom felt about their poverty. They could barely afford to exchange gifts among themselves and giving presents to others was out of the question. I was sure that Kenny's proud mother wouldn’t permit her son to receive something he couldn’t return in kind. Gently, carefully, I talked the problem over with Marty. He understood what I was saying. "I know mom, I know. But what if it was a secret? What if they never found out who gave it?"
The day before Christmas was rainy, cold and gray. As night settled in, I looked out the window and thought how mundane the rain seemed for a Christmas Eve. “Would wise & royal men come riding on such a night?” I doubted it.
It seemed to me that strange and wonderful things happened only on clear nights. Nights when one could at least see one star in the heavens. As I turned from the window, I saw Marty slip out the door. He wore his coat over his pajamas and clutched a tiny, colorfully wrapped box in his pocket. Down through the soggy pasture he went, then a quick slide under the electric fence, across the yard to Kenny's house and up the steps on tiptoes. He opened the screen door a crack; placed the gift on the doorstep, rang the doorbell and ran across the yard in a wild pace to get away unnoticed. Then suddenly, he banged into the electric fence. The shock sent him reeling. He lay stunned on the wet ground. His body tingled and he gasped for breath. Then slowly and weakly he was able to stand up. He was confused and frightened, but he saw the light from of our trailer windows and began the slow grueling trip back home.
"Marty, we cried as he stumbled through the door, what happened?" His lower lip quivered his eyes brimmed with tears. "I forgot about the fence and it knocked me down.' I hugged him. He was still dazed and there was a red mark beginning to blister on his face from his mouth to his ear. I treated the blister and soothed him with a cup of hot cocoa. In a few minutes his spirits were as bright as before. As I tucked him into bed he said, 'Mom, I'm sure Kenny didn't see me."
That Christmas Eve, I went to bed unhappy and puzzled. It seems such a cruel thing to happen to a little boy while on the purest kind of Christmas mission, doing what the Lord wants us all to do, giving to others, giving in secret.
I didn't sleep well that night. Somewhere deep inside must have been the disappointment that the night of Christmas had come, and it had been just an ordinary, problem - filled night, with no mysterious enchantment at all.
By morning the rain had stopped, and the sun shone. The streak on Marty's face was very red, but I could tell that the burn wasn’t serious. We opened our presents, smiled and enjoyed each other in the joy of Christmas. Soon, Kenny was knocking on the trailer door. He was eager to show Marty his new compass and tell about the mystery of its arrival. While the two of them talked Marty just smiled and smiled. As I watched them chattering away, I noticed that Marty wasn’t cocking his head.
When Kenny was talking, Marty seemed to be listening with his deaf ear. Weeks later, the report came from the school nurse, verifying what Marty and I already knew. Marty now had complete hearing in both ears.
The mystery of how Marty regained his hearing and still has it remains just that--a mystery.
Doctors suspect, of course, that the shock from the electric fence was somehow responsible. Perhaps so, but whatever the reason, I remain thankful to God for the good exchange of gifts on that Christmas Eve night. "So, you see, strange and wonderful things still happen on the night of our Lord's birth. And one doesn’t have to have a clear night either, to follow a fabulous star."
There is great healing power in the gift of love. Before Jesus was born, in the Jewish faith there were 713 laws to follow to be a good person following God. But after he came, there was one rule above all others, "And the greatest of these is love." (1 Cor. 13:13) When we have love for ourselves, others and God and allow the love of God to flow through us, then we truly are Christians following Jesus Christ and we can say, “For this reason, He came.”
The Bible says, “Perfect love casts out fear." (1 Jn. 4:18) Repeat these words and let them saturate your mind. When you face a difficult situation, remind yourself, "God is with me. God cares for me. I can meet every difficulty for God is with me.” And most important remind yourself, “Fear not, for God loves me." Be a spiritual witness and live in such a way that your life would not make sense if God didn’t exist. As Saint Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words."
Christmas is a season of love. The best gift we can give to anyone is an expression of the love and appreciation we feel for them. We can express love to others in many ways with little or no money. All it takes is a quiet time of special thought. Instead of spending an afternoon rushing through the mall hoping for inspiration, try getting your inspiration from the memories inside your mind & that quiet inner place of meeting with God.
1. Find a time when you can be peaceful and uninterrupted. Take several sheets of paper and at the top of each sheet, put the name of a special person you want to remember this Christmas.
2. One at a time, take a few moments to bring each person to mind. In the light of God, remember the wonderful times you’ve spent together, the special joys they’ve added to your life and the times they have made you laugh so hard you thought you'd cry. After you've thought about the person for a while, finish these statements about them in your card.
Dear (write their name)
1) The things I love most about you are...
2) If I could give you anything in the world, I’d give you.
3) The best time I ever had with you was....
4) What I wish for you is....
You may give a gift with it, but the most important thing to this person years from today will be what you wrote down because it is you giving of yourself. That is the most precious thing anyone can receive. Life is too short and too precious not to tell the people we care about how we feel about them.
I would like to share with you a piece by author Og Mandino from his book, “The Greatest Salesman in the World.” He wrote a letter to his two sons on Christmas Eve. He never meant for his letter to be published but it was so meaningful that it eventually was published.
Dear Dana and Matthew,
It’s Christmas Eve and I have retreated to the room, which Mom calls Dad’s Word Factory. For the past few hours I have been in my own fumbling way trying to help your Mother wrap your Christmas toys that have now been placed under the tree to await your morning onslaught. Funny, but each year I tease your mother about the care with which she wraps each package for we know how little boys handle pretty ribbons and paper, but she still treats each gift as if it contained gold bars and maybe they do contain something as valuable. They contain our love for you. When I finished my duties downstairs I came up to your room and stood between your beds, barely able to see your faces in the soft glow of the night-light. From below I could just hear faintly Christmas carols from the kitchen radio. And suddenly, without realizing it, I was on my knees, driven there I guess by my doubts and fears that I am not the father that I should be. Now I don’t expect either of you to understand this letter and the odds are great that you will never see it, but I wonder if we have given you the gifts that really count.
Have we taught you how to count your blessings, not only so you will appreciate what you have but want to do something for those who have not? Have we taught you to be colorblind so you can look at a black, yellow, brown or red child and see only a friend?
Have we taught you to love your country and to remember the thousands of other boys and girls who gave their lives so you can sleep in warmth and freedom? Have we taught you to respect the laws and to understand that if you don’t agree with them, you work to change them, but you never disobey them?
Have we taught you to pray and to pray only for guidance because God can help you to solve any problem if you let Him? Have we taught you not to quit in anything you do for if you persist you will eventually succeed?
Have we taught you to share not only your possessions but also yourself without any thought of acknowledge or publicity? Have we taught you that you need not let your hair grow long nor fail to take a bath in order to get your ideas across to us old folks?
Have we taught you that the world is really a beautiful place filled with beautiful people, in spite of what you see on television? Have we taught you that you can be anything you want to be if you’re willing to pay the price to reach your goals? And most important; have we taught you how to love?
I know both of you tell us what love is, that you love us, and we tell you that we love you, but it’s easy to love each other. What we hope is that you’ll learn to love everyone and that is the hardest job you will ever have until you learn the secret and the secret is so simple: all you must remember is that hate grows out of fear. And if you are afraid that someone is going to beat you, you will begin immediately to hate him. When you grow older, you’re afraid that someone is going to steal your job, your girl or your business, you immediately begin to hate. Without that fear there will never be hate. And without hate it is easy to love.
Our toughest task then, your mother’s and mine is to help both of you to grow up without fear. And this we promised to do with every bit of our ability. Every child is a miracle and so you are both miracles and there is no room for fear or hate in a miracle. I prayed before I left your darkened room and I was there so long that my eyes had become accustomed to the faint light so that I could see both of your faces. Because of this special night, I could only look at you, my boys and think of another tiny boy who slept on this night for the first time nearly 2000 years ago. He was not as warm as you and His bed was not as comfortable as yours and His poor mother and father were frightened and alone in a strange town. And yet, I wouldn’t be here in your room tonight thinking these thoughts if it had not been for that small boy and I can’t help but wonder what His dad was thinking as he looked down on His sleeping face. If it is not sacrilegious, I want both of you to know that I envy that father, for He gave his son the gifts that I hope to give both of you. You are indeed my precious cargo and I pray to God that He helps me to guide you to manhood.”
This Christmas you may give gifts, some that cost a little money and some that cost a lot.
But remember what Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of yourself.”
I love you and that is what I’ve tried to give you in this talk.
In His Love, Bernadette
What do you think?
© Unity of Vancouver, 2004 All Rights Reserved.