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THE ARRIVAL OF LIGHT AND THE PEACE IT PORTENDS
Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights, a time Jews are reminded that God’s light is provided even in times of greatest darkness. Christmas is similarly a celebration of God’s light. The Star of Bethlehem is present in our hearts, beckoning us to follow it towards a new way of living in the world.
Christmas heralds the salvation of humanity through our ability to love one another. It is not through simply believing in Jesus but rather through following his example that this miracle will come to pass. His birth is not only a miracle that happened two thousand years ago; it is a miracle that happens in each of us in any moment when we choose love instead of fear.
After two thousand years you’d think we would have gotten the point by now, but the resistance to unconditional love - both in our hearts and in the world - is undeniable. The world is dominated by a thought system so riddled with fear, so intent on perpetuating our experience of separation from each other, from our true selves and even from the earth itself, that the path out of our man-made hell is a difficult journey. All of us are taught to judge, to wall ourselves off, to attack and to defend from such an early age that we become people who hardly remember anymore that there was a point in our lives - very, very early in our lives - when to love felt the natural thing to do.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining - no kidding. Til he appeared and the soul felt its worth - a most profound reality, if true. As someone who believes it is, I ask myself how it’s possible that in a world so filled with the possibility of light, such darkness still reigns in so many quarters of our existence. Surely the problem is not with Jesus. The problem is with us.
Being a “believer” in Jesus of itself means little, while being a “disciple” of Jesus is infinitely transformative. The words “disciple” and “discipline” come from the some root, and to be his disciple means to discipline ourselves to think and to love like he does. There is a line in A Course in Miracles where it says that his way isn’t difficult, it’s just different. I find that to be true time and time again as I admonish myself, “It’s not that hard to be kinder, more charitable, more generous, more forgiving, Marianne - it’s just that the world has trained you to think differently.” What’s hard at times is getting over my resistance to doing it. Miracles are a choice. Surrendering our defensiveness, our fear, our belief in limitations, our judgments, our obsession with past and future, our attack thoughts, our lack of forgiveness - the rigor needed for the effort is an effort that spans a lifetime.
According to A Course in Miracles, “light means understanding:” an understanding of who we really are, which is love itself, and why we are here, which is to love one another. Truly it can be said that humanity today does not understand. We have fallen asleep to who we are and we have forgotten why we are here. The Course points out that in the Bible it says Adam fell asleep and nowhere does it say that he woke up.
Yet it also says that while there has been no mass awakening, it is time for one. In fact we will awaken or our nightmares will overwhelm us. From climate change to war, from poverty to all manner of injustice, the problems of the world were not made by God, they were made by us. And clearly it will take more than a new law, a new institution, or a new logical conclusion to unmake those things. It will take a change in us, an awakening in our hearts.
God’s light is the only power great enough to overcome the darkness of the world. His light is the love that casts out hate, and the miraculous power to transform all things. None of us has the magic wand that enables us to create the Promised Land of peace and joy and a redeemed humanity. But each of us has a light in our hearts that leads us on a more gentle path. In many ways our collective night is very, very dark right now. But the light is so bright, and if we follow it we will find our way.