Archive for December, 2009

New Year’s Day and Lifelong Practice: To Become a Transparency

December 30, 2009 - 9:08 am 8 Comments

Homily: To Be A Transparency:
First thoughts on the New Year: Reflection
as a necessary part of the religious and ethical life
The Reverend Peter Edward Lanzillotta, Ph.D.

The spiritual, and I would say, the essential human activity of reflection is an important part of our lives…. While there is the almost inescapable task of doing ethical reflection on the consequence of choices and actions that range from Global warming to self deceit, there is also the more heartfelt and the more intimate living dynamic process of being a reflection.
Since nothing is ever truly hidden, and everything can be revealed when it comes to the light- the shape of our personal images, the content of our characters, the whole of our interior and exterior lives, we can easily comprehend that the essentials of our lives become accurately reflected in all that we think, feel, and do.
Because of its theological and psycho-dynamic complexities, the theme of reflection has to be looked at as comprised of a few component parts: They are: Reflection, Mirroring, & Transparency.

First, the art of reflection… I say art, because there are creative techniques one can learn or when we elect to enter into a more formal reflection, there are intuitively religious and psychological constructs, and we would be taught to use journals, dream logs, and along with directed exercises and cogent dialogues with mentors, therapists and close friends, etc..
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The art of reflection, like the music of the soul, reveals the essential human need- the need to reflect or look back on one’s life, one’s priorities, loyalties, and the quality of our participation in life is an emotional and sensitizing process…
Reflection, as contrasted with mirroring and transparency is primarily a passive activity that usually involves us in looking back and evaluating or assessing our past actions and feelings. A common theme is the act of delving into the emotional and situational past to look for clues and hidden meanings in our previous behaviors that might influence or reveal current insights. Much of psychotherapy and spiritual direction involves us earnestly in this work.

However, many of us practice reflection informally whenever we come to a time in our year or in our lives when we reminisce or look back on the times, events, and experiences that has gone by and we wonder silently or out loud…. To ourselves or with others… These times of reflection are often started around personal and significant milestones such as our birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, retirements, and deaths… However, reflection can be generated randomly, by a stray but poignant song, or a random movie scene or by those events that do not seem so compelling, yet are still influential, such as the start of a school or church year, any time we are embarking on endings and beginnings. Often, we ask ourselves about the twists and turns, the challenges and the choices, the roads taken and left untrod, and how they might have made a difference in our lives. The famous depth psychologist, Carl Jung, once stated that the most meaningful incidents in our lives and “the right way to wholeness are made up of fateful detours and wrong turnings”… What we wound up doing on our way to somewhere else…
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The next part of the theme of reflection involves us more ethically and more directly. It is the process of mirroring which is rarely, if ever, passive. The act of mirroring usually engages us in a more instant insight or feedback because we can receive information about ourselves and about our actions and choices more quickly, even acting as a “boomerang” effect.
Mirroring is not something we ponder, for it provides us the immediate capacity to see the effects of the behavior we do, and how it impacts another person, a family, or a congregation. Children, so its seems, are adults more sharply focussed mirrors- rarely out of focus, neither concave or convex… Well, maybe vexing! Our children act as immediate sources of equal opportunity embarrassment, and will often imitate or reflect some of our least flattering, most revealing qualities or traits!
Mirroring states rather succinctly that WYSIWYG- what you see, is what you get, or more directly, and more poignantly, what you do, is reflected back to you! We are earnestly advised by ethical and religious teachers such as Jesus, Buddha, and Gandhi, to personally become the change you wish to see in our world; that is, to be courageous enough, and to be soulful enough to realize that whatever you do will have an effect on others, and if you truly wish to change some aspect of the world we live in, some part of your personal or relational life, you will have to mirror that change, embody, and directly reflect those changes in your thoughts and actions. This is one dimension of how our liberal religious principles and their concern for justice and compassion affects us on a direct and personal level. I hold them to be true because I believe that all true change starts in our personal minds and hearts and is then mirrored out into the world. You and I need to mirror back to one another the values you wish to have, feelings you would like to share, and the wisdom, justice, and compassion you would like to generate and spread among others.
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You and I have to consciously mirror the experiences we want or need to have reinforced in our culture and that we want to see repeated in our daily routines. When there is some injustice or imbalance in the world or in my life, I have to ask myself how I might have contributed to it? And more importantly, once identified, how is that I can reflect, redirect, and correct my life so that I can mirror the solutions and the outlooks that heal, rectify, forgive, transform, and uplift?
The last facet or segment of the process of reflection is the most intimate and vulnerable one; the capacity to soulfully shine or to be a personal transparency. It is the ability to see and the willingness to be seen clearly- to disclose and to be revealed and perceived at the core of our being is the ideal quality of transparency. This is not to expose, as if others should act as detectives looking for damning evidence or criminal clues… Nor is it be seen as acting or being shallow or to be easily “seen through” to find their underlying motives.
Instead, the quality of being a transparency is to aspire to be free of our ego defenses, our so-called best strategies, game playing, bluffing, posturing, or any other such ego mechanisms. Transparency is an ideal that willingly admits that we are all works in process, yet it also affirms and asserts there is an inner conscience, a higher call, a real voice, or an ethical and spiritual imperative that speaks to us to reach for a life that can be lived that is beyond our fears, beyond our perceived limitations, beyond and above the media driven definitions and the worldly expectations we have all around us.
For me, being a transparency is one of the end goals of the spiritual life- to live as if I could be a transparency for wisdom and compassion that others can clearly see, and that I can act as a clear window, a human channel or as a mind, body, and spirit expression of holy ideas, virtues, and principles.
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As a quality of ministry that each of us can share, transparency asks us to live as authentically as we can; to be willing to work to create a world without pretense, to engage in relationships without artifice, and to build and sustain a community without denials… It is to be one’s true self along with others who are also striving to find and proclaim their authentic being, and then together, we consciously and willingly choose to support and care for one another, our children, our whole selves and I would say, our holy lives. Well, as you can see, Vickie and I have quite a year planned for you!

Last thoughts…. Along my spiritual journey over the past 30 years, I spent some time among the Christian Scientists. While it was an important stop along my way, it was too dogmatic and restrictive for me. Yet, it did leave me with certain valuable and lasting insights. As a regular part of their worship, they include an expanded interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer, that adds to the text, some clarifying and inspirational remarks. …. When the line in the Lord’s Prayer is given, “Thy Kingdom come, on Earth as it is in Heaven,” the Christian Science commentary is “And Love is reflected in love.”

And love is reflected in love…. May we, as individuals learn to shine forth, may come to understand the power of reflection and the mirroring of the good to one another, and may this community, become be a clear reflection of the love we feel for one another.
Amen. So Be It. Blessed Be.

The Media and Our Minds

December 28, 2009 - 2:48 pm 11 Comments

Pastoral Reflection: The Media And Our Minds

“We should be careful, Thoreau once warned, “to treat our minds as innocent and ingenuous children whose guardians we are- and to be careful what objects and what subjects we thrust upon their attention…
Every thought that passes through the mind helps to wear and tear it… to deepen its ruts, which, as in the streets of Pompeii, evince how much it has been used. How many things there are concerning which [their content and impact upon us] we might well deliberate whether we had better known [or rejected] them.”

For some time now, there has been much made of how the media, and the freedom of speech and expression impacts the lives of children and adults. With Christmas now gone, and with big screen Televisions, computers, phones, etc., being the best sellers again this year, I expect that more needs to be said about the impact of the media during this last decade and into the foreseeable future.
There is no question about it- we live in a media saturated culture… In fact, we are now inventing or discovering new problems that were absent only 20 years ago… Like carpal tunnel problems from texting excessively, or video game addiction… Some other troubling examples of the overwhelming energy and influence would include: hate radio, lack of enough children’s TV programming vs. violent video games, the availability of bomb construction via the Internet, the lack of civility in culture, and the coarseness of everyday advertising and language. These and other issues ask us to examine and evaluate just what kinds of communication are best to encourage or what kinds of language, ideas, and expression can best serve to create our necessary social dialogue and the direction of our national moral compass that best guides us towards a just and compassionate society.

I believe that Thoreau would weigh into this discussion on the side of prudence and recommend or favor dialog that inspires, not that demeans human dignity and self-worth. He states, “As you see, so at length, will you say.”
Do our perceptions dictate our reality? If so, what are we feeding to one another that encourages virtue and values, altruism, idealism, and the willingness “to love your neighbor as yourself?” While the freedoms to say and do are vitally important, I am asking out loud whether or not this generation has confused the implied responsibilities for those freedoms with the opportunities for amoral license and being naive about the consequences? Ask yourself to ponder this question, and reflect on Thoreau’s words for us today.

“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more
encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor. It is something to be to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful, but it is more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which we morally can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”

Making Any New Year’s Resolutions? Some Guidelines!

December 28, 2009 - 11:28 am 5 Comments

Some Guidelines for Making New Year Resolutions:

The basic ground rules for making effective and hope-filled resolutions is to avoid the extremes- to avoid making them too easy or too difficult. The first extreme asks too little or almost nothing more from us than going through the motions and being willing to receive a small satisfaction from their accomplishments. The other extreme of difficulty programs in failure, encourages disappointment, or excuse-making when most of us are in need of affirmation, more self knowledge, and a greater ability to empathize with what we most need to do for ourselves and our world. The best approach to resolution making is to choose ones that make us stretch, but that will not break us, resolutions that assist our growth and learning without intimidation or being too easy.

Some years, the tasks and resolutions we choose have a different theme or intensity to them. As a part of change, growth, and the cycles of our human experience, some years our resolutions will be intensely personal. Other times in our lives, our resolutions will be more community based or motivated by larger aims and goals. Some years will focus on personal behavior, relational shifts and changes, or career objectives. However you choose them or will choose to express them to yourself and to others, there can become an indication of what will be happening in your life this year.

As an exercise in fulfilling our hopes and dreams, be sure to choose no more than 3 things you wish to focus on in the coming months… Be sure to make your goals workable, and with sincere effort, attainable so that you can avoid unnecessary discouragement or failure…

Enlist the support of role models and trusted advisors… While receiving support and guidance from your family and friends, that choice is not without its hazards! In some of the latest studies, as just one example, having fat friends or chubby family members, helps you to gain weight! Unless you choose a “buddy” system, where both family members or friends commit equally to the goals, it could derail your best personal plans!

Choose people you truly admire, or people whose accomplishments are in the area you are trying to achieve, let them inspire you! Consult experts in the designated area, be they organizational people who help you with clutter or work routines, or nutritionists, or family therapists, or clergy and other spiritual guides… The best guidelines is this: If they have been able to do it for themselves, they will be better coaches or guides than if they only have the right words…

Lastly, no matter how you decide on change, growth, awareness, etc., in the final appraisal or result, its up to you- your perceptions, discipline, understanding, strength, etc…… Please remember, change or improvement is no an easy journey… there are often some side steps or fall backs along the way…. Don’t quit! rest and relax… take some time off if you need to, but stay with your vision of yourself, and the goals your heart wishes to attain! Blessings!

 

On Life’s Purpose by Henry David Thoreau

I wish to begin this [year] well; to do something in it that is worthy of it and me; to transcend my daily routine; to have my immortality now; in the quality of my daily life. May I dare as I have never done. May I attain to a youth never attained. I am eager to report the glory of the universe; may I be worthy of it, for it is [only] reasonable that we should be more worthy [of life] at the end of each year, than at its beginning.

Harry Emerson Fosdick

[Nobody ever finds a life worth living. One has to make it worth living. All the people to whom life has been abundantly worth living have made it so by [making] an interior, creative, and spiritual contribution of their own back to life and to others.
Is life worth living? Most people seem to think that is a question about the Cosmos, or about God. No, my friends, that is a question about the inside attitude of you and me.]

It’s Time

It’s time that we understand our role as stewards of this planet,  That we respect and honor the delicate balance of our world

It’s time that we realize, “We are all one people”,  That separateness is an illusion and that, in truth, we are all connected.

It’s time that we see past the veil of illusion called separateness,  and understand just how connected we really are,

That we are all made from the same substance of the universe,  and by harming another we are only harming ourselves.

It’s time that we see past the color of one’s skin or the name of one’s God,  That we realize we are merely traveling parallel paths leading up the same mountain.

It’s time that we stop searching for happiness outside ourselves,  That we turn our attention inward and tune into the calm peace of our soul.

It’s time that we take responsibility for making the world a better place,  That we strengthen the foundation of our communities by being of good character.

It’s time that we ask, “how can I make a difference?”,  That we leave this world in a little better shape than when we arrived

It’s time that we listen to each other with empathy and compassion,  That we overcome the fear in our mind so that we can experience the love in our heart.

It’s time that we get past our ego and discover our innate spiritual essence,  That we realize our selfish desires and serve humankind unconditionally, with love.

It’s time that we “Love all, serve all”,  That we be at peace.

ITS TIME

 

Some Additional Thoughts for The New Year

December 26, 2009 - 4:09 pm 2 Comments

TODAY
There are two days in every week of our lives about which we should not worry. They are two days that need to be kept free of fear and apprehension. One of these days is Yesterday, with all its mistakes, and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains.
Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control. All the money in the world cannot bring back yesterday. We cannot perform a single act we had performed, we cannot erase a single word we had said. Yesterday is gone. The other day we should not worry about is Tomorrow, with all its possible adversities, its burdens, its large promises and poor performances. Tomorrow is also beyond our immediate or complete control.
Tomorrow’s sun will rise, either in splendor or behind a mask of clouds-but it will rise. Until it does, we have no stake in Tomorrow, for it is as of yet, unborn. This leaves only one day-Today. Any person can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the burdens of those two awful eternities-Yesterday and Tomorrow- that we break down, or feel that we cannot go on.
It is not the experience of Today that drives a person mad-it is remorse, regret, some resentment or bitterness for something that happened Yesterday and the fearful anticipation or dread of something that might happen, or what Tomorrow might bring.
So remember: Today is all that we can live, and we can only live that day and every day, one at a time. Anonymous

Of Time
She wondered if he could ever see how often, although silently, she pleaded for a moment of his time.. and she recalled a Danish folk tale about an angel who came down to Earth to plead for a moment of any person’s time. In exchange, the angel would give eternal life.
The angel’s gift was never given, for everyone she encountered had one foot in the past, the other in the future, and no one had a moment to spare, not one, had a moment of time…
She wondered, would there ever be an answer found to life’s questions that is not bound by either yesterday or tomorrow? “Why is it,” she asked, “that life is not being lived in the present tense but a tense present, instead of taking each moment as it is.”
Over and over, she framed her unspoken plea, yet every once in a while an angelic moment in time would occur, which could be our moment, our promise of eternity. B. Devito, adapted

Olde English Exhortation

Take time to be friendly, it is the road towards happiness.

Take time to read, it is the foundation of wisdom.

Take time to play, it is the secret of youth.

Take time to dream, for it is your higher reality.

Take time to observe, a day is too short otherwise.

Take time to laugh, it is music for the soul.

Take time to work, it is the price for success.

Take time to think, it is the source of power.

Take time to love and be loved, it is the privilege of gods.
ANON

Rilke’s reflections
I’m living just as the century ends. A great leaf that God and you and I have covered with writing

Turns now overhead, in strange hands.

We feel the sweep of it like a wind We see the brightness of a new page
Unmoved by us, the fates take its measure and look at one another, Saying nothing.

Your first word of all was light. And time began. Then for long you were silent

Your second word was man, and fear began which grips us still.

Are you about to speak again? I don’t want your third word.

 

Promises To Yourself for The New Year

Promise to be strong enough that nothing said or done can disturb or take away your peace of mind

Promise to make all your friends feel that they are important

Promise to think of only the best, to work for only the best, and
to make the best come true.

Promise to be just as enthusiastic about the successes of others as you are about your own.

Promise to forget the mistakes of the past and press on toward greater achievements in the future.

Promise to wear a cheerful expression and to give everyone you
meet a smile

Promise to give so much effort to the improvement of yourself
that you have no time to criticize others

Promise to be too big to worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble in your life

Anonymous

NOW

Now is the time, the only time we have, to climb the mountains of doubt and despair and attain a new view of the possibilities that await us… A vision of life that lies out above and beyond imposed or previously accepted limits….

Now is the time to renew the earth’s bounty and blessings that have been ruined by greed and our own tyrannies…

Now is the time to join with friends and neighbors to chant a new litany of hope…

Now is the time to give roses… And not wait until they adorn a grave…
Now is the time for grace and gratitude to reign; and to hold hands with justice and compassion.

Now IS the time….

Christmas Eve Readings & Reflections

December 21, 2009 - 9:10 am 14 Comments

Readings And Reflections for Christmas Eve

Opening Words/Chalice Lighting/Advent Wreath Candles

As this sacred night approaches, we are warmed by the kindling of our Community chalice… Where a gathering of strangers can become transformed into the company of friends… Where seekers can unite, despite any differences they might hold, and become an inclusive community, that this is a place where a congregation of caring illuminates the personal path and willingly shares the found light with one another.

We light the Advent candles that form a star ….
First we light the candle of a bright faith, a sustaining courage to face questions honestly, and that preservers during adversity- a faith for seekers who are willing to grow beyond safe expectations…
Second, we light the candle of peace… Knowing full well that our world contains only smatterings of peace, shards of justice, and so we gather to affirm the value of peace in our world, and know that it begins this evening, with greater peace in our own hearts, and can radiate outward to all others…
Third, we light the candle of love…. The great remedy to loneliness, the antidote to fear, and that love is our affirmation that caring for one another as offering and being the greatest of gifts we share among us…
Fourth, the candle of hope, knowing that we can see and seek out a better tomorrow, that a hopeful church is a healing place, that hope gives each of us inspiration for this night, and every new day….
Lastly, we light the center candle of the beloved community… That the church is an ideal greater than oneself; that the journey together is more important than the personal odyssey alone, and that having a sense of belonging and acceptance is a most precious gift that we can actively nurture and support Its glowing presence among us. … Welcome, to our Christmas Eve Service!
Readings & Reflections:

1) Angels We Can Hear
One of the most charming and enduring images of Christmas is that of angels… most agree that they add to the “magic” of the season.
When the Unitarian minister, Edward Hamilton Sears first wrote “It came Upon A Midnight Clear,” just what do you suppose he felt when he penned those words, To hear the angels sing!”
We receive one of the best definitions of angels from the father of Universalism, Origen of Alexandria, some 1600 years ago. He stated that angels were “those servants and messengers of God’s grace, given to all humanity, for the purpose of our salvation.”
In more inclusive religious terms, we can restate this definition by saying that angels are those inspired thoughts, feelings, and experiences that draw us closer to love; that assist us in transforming the ordinary into the sacred, and angels are those thoughts, feelings, and experiences that create greater opportunities for inspiration, wisdom, awareness, and inner peace.
The angels of the Christmas story point us towards revelation and fulfillment. Their message to us recognizes the creative and spiritual potential in every child, in each and every one of us. Now it is true that the glorious message they delivered that night was met with wonder, awe, surprise and fear… Quite understandably! Yet, every time we read or listen to this timeless story, on this holy night, we can lay aside those fears, and allow ourselves to become enchanted by the fact that this story, and the angels message is for each of us, each day, and every night… The angels we have heard on high remind us perpetually that the gifts of life and love, of potential and possibilities are freely given to us all, and when taken into our hearts, will serve as agents of inspiration, and servants of truth, hope, and promise in us all. PEL

2) The Gifts We Give
Howard Thurman was one of the leading African-American ministers of the last century. As mystic and prophet, to the People’s Church in San Francisco, his messages are among the most timely and enduring for us…. He wrote:

I place my gifts on my altar this Christmas:
Gifts that are mine, as the years are mine.

The quiet hopes that flood the earnest cargo of my dreams
The best of all good things for those I love.

A fresh new trust for all whose faith is dim.
The love of life, a most precious gift in reach of us all:
Seeing in the acts of each day, the seeds of tomorrow.

Finding in the struggle, the strength for renewal,
Seeking in each person, the face of kinship.

I place these gifts on my altar this Christmas
Gifts that are mine, as the years are mine….

Amidst all of its whirl and activity, may this Christmas bring you To your heart’s altar; there to receive a sustaining grace; the gifts of renewal and healing, the gift of stillness, and peace …
Before you set out again to follow your star….

3) A Special Starlight
The Unitarian poet and biographer, Carl Sandburg, gave us this reflection on the meaning of starlight, on this night….

The Creator of night and of birth was also the Maker of the stars.
Shall we look now at the stars in winter, and call them sweeter friends, because of the story of a mother and a child is never told with the stars being left out?
It is a Holy Night now descending, when a child issues out of the darkness, and emerges into the unknown, into starlight?

Down the winter evening sky, when a woman hovers between two great doorways, between entry and exit, between pain and laughter, joy and weeping, do those silver white lines that form on face and heart, come from those holy stars? …

Shall all the wanderers over all the earth, all the homeless ones, all against whom, the doors are shut and words are spoken- Shall these people find the earth less strange tonight?

Shall they hear the news, a whisper on the night wind? ” A child is born…. The meek shall inherit the earth” … .

Shall this quiet dome of stars high over, make signs, and offer a friendly language among the nations? Shall nations gather with no clenched fists at all, and look into one another’s faces , and see eye to eye, and find ever new testaments of [humanity] as sojourners who toil toward new understanding?

Shall there be more believers, and more believers of sunset and moonrise, of noon set and dawn, of wheeling galaxies of stars, wheels within wheels of revelation?

Shall people’s tumult, grandeur, fanfare, panoply, prepared loud noises now stand equal to the quiet heart, gentle thoughts, and vast dreams of humankind’s ability to conquer the earth by first conquering themselves?

Is there time, time for ancient genius to be set in comparison with modern generations? Is there time for stripping the adult wrappings of life
Down to simple, profound, childlike questions?

On a Holy Night we may say: The Creator of the night and of birth, is also the Maker of the stars.

4) A Christmas Prayer

Our Father/Mother God, that which is the source of all good, all gifts, and all graces in our lives; On this Holy Night, may we, at least for a moment, turn aside from this unquiet world, and seek a restful affirmation for our spirits…
Tonight, we find ourselves separated from others, living in a sorely divided country, where both the wages of war and the cost of our worldly cares hold us captive, and we are held to its selfish ambitions and outcomes…
In this sacred darkness, we bring our wounds to be healed, our hopes to be renewed, and through the timeless message of Christmas, we bring our desire to live more inspired, meaningful and peaceful lives;
This is a night of noble and gracious remembrance, we can recall all that is good , all that is holy in our lives. It is a night of renewal, of hope and
For the recognition of the promise of lives well lived, and its outcomes…
We gather here and together, to restore our hopes, and to renew our joy…. On this night of nights, we can begin to mend our broken parts, and live with a more trusting spirit and a more grateful heart for all the blessings we have received, and will receive by first caring about others…

With faith in one another, with hope for the infinite possibilities that lie within and among us, we come together this night, knowing full well
That we cry, we laugh, we love as one. That our hope for our world is not separate from our hopes for ourselves, and for one another, that peace begins with each of us, and that the love and caring for one another and our world, that love heals our doubts and calms our fears, is being born within and among us…. AMen…So Be It

Homily: The Bethlehem Within
…The town of Bethlehem, during Biblical times, was a meager place- somewhat desolate and forlorn, more of a decrepit village, a modest and almost barren place for one’s home address. By all accounts, it seemed to be a place that lacked luster, or the promise of any new life. Yet, it is essential to our human understanding of life and its mysteries, that this unassuming spot would be a highly unlikely place for a Jewish Messiah to be born!

Yet, prophecy and divine wisdom have often confounded common sense. The gracious is often hidden in the most ordinary of places. You see, faith, at its core, is a fearless leap into the unknown, into mystery, and across the chasm of doubt. Such faith impels us to jump, in search of inner answers and deeper meanings than mere logic bestows.

The Christmas story is just such an occasion. We are asked to accept the irrational and the unexplainable and hold these things in a holy paradox; to keep its mysteries, and let its meaning reveal itself through a deeper comprehension of its inner story- that is, by allowing yourselves to find a childlike hope, and to give it a place in your heart.

At this holy time of the year, we can rediscover Bethlehem as a special birthplace for our hearts. At Christmas, the essential and inclusive message is that the love that is symbolized in the birth of the Christ-child is renewed in you every year… That we are given this timeless opportunity to rebirth ourselves in heart and soul.

When Christmas and Bethlehem are perceived in this way, its truth goes beyond historical facts: It becomes a holiday for our humanity- It becomes a time that restores hope, peace and joy to its rightful place- the center of our lives, and the place where our motives give birth to our feelings of compassion.

Through this historical event, and throughout the birth story, and its legends and lessons, we can often feel emotionally impelled to revisit those formative places in our hearts: neighborhoods, memories, family ties, and then through our reflections, find and rekindle our faith and our gratitude.

In that way, we relive and embody the Christmas story more personally, and can find places in our own story that can help us to bear its meaning, and to connect to its trials, its seeming impossibilities, and to its evident graces, and thereby give birth to greater hope and joy in your lives..
Christmas lives on as more than a sentimental ritual, whenever we see and discover that there is a Bethlehem with each of us. With our own childlike openness, we capture the promises and possibilities of our lives, at any age!

May this Christmas be experienced as the renewal of hope and the recalling of the blessing you have received as part of your own family and as a part of this church community. May it become a renewal of the birthright of caring for oneself and for our world in better and larger ways; giving vitality to humility, conscience to our character, and greater purpose to our mission.

Lastly, may the inspiration of candles and carols, of music and meaning, Allow you to recall that your spiritual home is first found by your willingness to accept and to create a Bethlehem in your hearts….

Closing Words:
Whatever faith we have, Christmas confirms it;
Whatever hope there is in us, Christmas exalts it;
Whatever love abides or is shared among us, Christmas makes it
more tender, and more deep.
Merry Christmas! Blessed Be! So be It!