EBUP25: Christmas In Three Dimensions

Eric Butterworth Unity Podcast #25

Eric Butterworth Sunday Services — Christmas In Three Dimensions

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Well as we’re all very well aware, the sight, and sounds, and even the smell of Christmas, all of them are in the air. Inducing once again this strangely beautiful, and still beautifully strange season of such striking contrasts. So many paradoxes.

For it’s a magic time, it’s also a tragic time. Magic because of the way it transforms streets, and stores, and homes, and hearts from the routine, and the prosaic into a veritable land of fantasy and dreams, and special Christmas glow. But it’s also a tragic time. Tragic because the magic is illusion, and behind the façade of tinsel and mistletoe there is often a great deal of loneliness and heartache, nostalgia that is unfulfilled.

And of course in our land there is still great challenges, and poverty, and at a place the other side of the world there are still hostages being held against their will [this talk must have been given in 1979. Hostages were held and Christmas was on a Tuesday]. And there is here at home, the charade of gift exchanging, quite often under a confusion of love and conformity, and pressure, and sometimes even guilt.

But there’s no holding back the calendar, and so on Tuesday morning we will once again celebrate this lovely and puzzling time that we call Christmas. As students of truth, scientists in the realm of mind, maybe we should ask some questions. What does Christmas actually mean? What’s it all about? The average person if he can bring himself to see beyond the Santa Claus syndrome, would say that this is the birthday of Jesus.

Well I always am reluctant to disillusion people but if there is one thing that December 25th it is not, it is the day that Jesus was born. As a matter of fact, the more we know about the scriptures, we realize that there is really no history of the early life of Jesus at all. None. Only a variety of conflicting legends. And the December 25th date was arbitrarily set by a now obscure church historian in the sixth century.

Without question it was strongly influenced by the Roman feast of Saturnalia because this is the time of the Saturnalian feast. Most of the symbolism’s, and even Santa Claus himself are borrowed from Saturnalian customs when Saturnalia came down from the North Pole, and gave out gifts and led the way in merry making. This was an ancient Roman tradition.

This was never intended to be a time for festivity. Oh there are a lot of lovely Christmas traditions that we carry on year after year, but I’m sure that most of us know that most of these traditions have a kind of pagan or at least non-Christian origin. Such as the Christmas tree, and Yule log, and the Mistletoe, and the exchanging of gifts, and Santa Claus, all of these came from origins other than that which have any relationship to the Christian flow.

And do you know that the actual observance of Christmas as a holiday was not established in America until the latter part of the 19th Century? We’ve kind of come to believe that it was sort of an always thing. There were the pilgrims, who not only frowned on a season of making merry, but it was actually against the law. In other words, in 1659, the colony of Massachusetts passed a law that read, and we quote, “Whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor by feasting or in any other way, shall be fined five shillings.”

And for many years people who refused to to work on Christmas either went to jail, or paid fines, or spent the holiday in the stocks. And look at us now. How we’re caught up in what Phillip Wiley once referred to as the “hopped up pressure laden, status seeking, competitive degradation of Christmas”.

I’m not sure I would use his language, but it’s interesting. Now there are those who like to blame it all, the deterioration of the Christmas concept, blame it all on the merchants. When we hear the cry, let’s put Christ back into Christmas, it’s always the intimation that the merchant is a kind of scrooge who wrings his hands in delight as John Q. Public dances to his tune.

I would rather change the slogan, if we’re interested in slogans, which I’m not. To let’s put ourselves back into Christmas. The problem is not the buying of gifts, and certainly we can’t overlook the fact that as business prospers, at Christmas time or any other time, the whole nation prospers and we’re all beneficiaries of that. Seems to me that the problem, if there is a problem, and perhaps there is, it’s really quite simple. It is that Christmas has three dimensions.

The average person will touch it on purely the surface. And this probably true of most of the things in life, we tend to live our lives at the circumference, rather than at the point of center within it. At the surface level the whole season of Christmas, and the lovely customs of singing carols, and exchanging gifts symbolize something that can only be understood on an inner or more cosmic, or more metaphysical level.

Of course, even of itself, the outer festivity is a lovely thing. It does such beautiful things to our homes, and as some folks might say, I am kind of a Christmas nut myself. In terms of the fact that we get our Christmas tree up very early, and keep it up probably til February because we love to have the influence in our home. And you can take a walk on Park Avenue and see the lighted Christmas trees, or wander down Fifth Avenue and see the breathtaking displays, and walk through the crowds and catch the feeling of joy, and expectancy. And there’s a background of bell ringing Salvation Army lassies, and a varied array of Santa Claus’s with the suit and manner that doesn’t quite fit.

And the fragrance of chestnuts being warmed on a crude stove, and usually handled by hands that haven’t been washed for two or three days. All of this is Christmas, and it’s beautiful. But of course there’s something more, how easily we can pack the artificial trees, and the garlands, and the bells back into the attic for another year, and how quickly the stores change their displays to January sales. And how soon the street Santa Claus returns to his place in line at the unemployment compensation office.

So obviously there’s something more, much more. And the more first of all, is the story itself. It’s a beautiful story, or at least a series of stories. The birth of Jesus in the manger those long years ago. This is an aspect of Christmas that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. You may remember the story of the two women who were peering through the Christmas crowds into the store windows when they came to a lovely creche. They’re standing there kind of looking at this thing with awe, and finally one of them says, now look at that, wouldn’t you know it, the church is even trying to take over Christmas.

But this is the second dimension of the Christmas idea. It’s a lovely story. It’s one that stretches our credulity. And to make it even more difficult it’s actually two stories. Two separate distinct accounts, two set of characters, two legends, two entirely different settings to the birth of Jesus recounted in the Book of Matthew, and again in the Book of Luke.

Luke tells a story of pastoral simplicity, this is the source of the story of the shepherds in the field watching over their flocks by night, and of the star in the east that came to them, and the angels standing by filling them with fear. And the angels voices telling them of the birth of the Savior in a manger, and their determination to go and see this thing that has come to pass. It’s been re-enacted in so many ways, and cartoon, and drama, and so forth that most of us can tell it.

And there’s the Matthew story, colored with grandeur and regal splendor. It’s a story of, and perhaps for, people of wisdom, of intellect. It tells of three wise men, sometimes referred to as three kings, who came from the East to Jerusalem following a star which quite likely was an astrological sign. That led them also to the manger where they presented the newborn king with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And again this is something we’ve sung about, and we’ve told and retold, and have seen depicted in so many different ways.

So this the story, or stories, what child is there who could not retell the whole thing effectively? And yet what adult of us is there who understands it in terms of any practical application in our own lives, and our time? And in relation to the status seeking conformity ridden experience of Christmas, what is it all about? How does it fit in? What are we doing at this time when we go through this annual charade?

So it’s in the third dimension that Christmas makes sense. And this is the inner meaning that is not very often acknowledged or even given any thought at all. It’s an idea that’s so important that it has several handholds by which we can lay hold of it according to our consciousness. Whether like the shepherds in the field, in faith and simplicity. Or whether like the wise men in reason and intellect.

Somehow we can take hold of it, and it can have an application in our experience today, and have great relevance to all of the things that we may be facing. Personally, nationally, or in a world sense. But whatever may be your perception of the great story, one thing is sure, it’s the story of the greatest gift of all. And it’s a gift that was depicted in John 3:16. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, and whosoever believeth on him shall not die, but shall have everlasting life.”

Now this is a word itself that has many dimensions, and has been seen normally on the surface level. Because it seems to imply that God so loved a sinful mankind that he brought something of himself to walk the earth for a while, to lift us up, and to beckon onward to the afterlife. And only if we believe on him, shall we come to know the truth, and come to know the experience of any kind of eternal existence.

And this has been the emphasis that has been given by much of traditional Christianity. And I’m here to say, and I’ve said it often, that this is totally misrepresented, the great truth of the great gift of the infinite to mankind, and to each of us personally. Meister Eckhart in medieval times who I’ve always said is one of my gurus, a german mystic who was a parish priest in his day. And I’ve always said that if Meister Eckhart could have really been understood in his day, he probably would have been burned at the stake.

Because he spoke such dynamic metaphysical things, but they went right over their heads, and so unfortunately his real meaning has been preserved for our time. But of this particular statement, God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. He says, giving a key, “God never begot but one son. But the eternal is forever begetting the only begotten.”

Now that’s a very important insight. God never begot but one son, but the eternal is forever begetting the only begotten. In other words, the only begotten son, which John 3:16 is referring to, is that within you that is begotten only of God. This is the one son. This is the divine spark, this is the God self of you, this is what Paul refers to as “Christ in you the hope of glory.” And whosever liveth and believeth on this divine self within him, shall not die in the sense of experiencing any kind of deterioration in life, falling away from the true awareness of his oneness with God.

But shall live in the eternity dimension. Come to live the life more abundant that Jesus talks about. God so loved you, that he gave you that which is begotten only of him. There is that in our lives that is begotten of a lot of sources. And certainly there’s that of our consciousness in this particular season that is begotten by a lot of conformity. We do a lot of things, we get involved in exchanging gifts normally because we feel we should.

Or as we mentioned last week, because we are guilty if we don’t. We do all sorts of things because of that which is begotten of other influences, but God so loved you, that he gave you the gift of himself, that which is begotten only of him. Your true divine self. And so God so loved, that he gave, this is the emphasis that we want to see at this particular season of the year.

We’re told that man is created in the image likeness of God, so that actually there’s a basic motivation toward giving, which we feel very strongly at this time. When we touch something of this consciousness of the divine depth within us, then there is a desire to give, always when we feel close to our inner self, we have the desire to give, to share, to express. Because man essentially is a giver. Man is in the express business, this is what life is all about.

So that we tend to do a lot of giving at this time, and part of the Christmas activity, and rightly so, is engaged in giving, and exchanging of gifts, and doing all sorts of things. But the thing that we need to ask ourselves again, is with the giving that I’m doing now, why? Ask it of every specific gift, or even the feelings of gifts we don’t give but think we should have. The feelings of guilt.

Why do I give? Why do I think I should give? There is a connection of course to the great flow of the divine process within us, but it’s important that we understand what this connection is. To understand where we are. How much giving do we do because we really feel the desire to express this divine depth within us?

How much giving do we do because we are actually giving way to something? Thus it’s a part of our growth, it’s a part of our consciousness, it’s a part of our celebration, and how much do we do because oh my I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to give a gift to the boss, and the person next door, and the elevator operator in the hotel, and all of these things. I’ve got to do these things. You have to, after all, what are they going to think if you don’t? How much do we do because we feel we should? Or because we’re conformity ridden, because we feel the pressure of it all?

One poet says, the gift without the giver is bare. And reason is because when you give only a gift, you say after all I did give, but if you give only a gift, whether it’s materialistic or money or things or whatever, it is something that depletes you in the giving. But when you give out of the overflow of this divine love process within you, and thus give in love and service, you put something into the gift that transcends its intrinsic value, and you are actually enriched and blessed in the giving. And the other person feels that blessing, and it’s multiplied and increased in terms of what it actually does for him.

It’s a whole different thing. The material gift is simply a vehicle through which an inner change takes place, or should. Both of you are the richer for the experience when you give in the right consciousness. And though the material bauble may be discarded and worn out and laid aside, the blessing remains as a sole treasure that is never lost. Both to the giver, and to the receiver.

Now let me suggest this to you in a little parable, a little illustration that is some tells us, something about the structure of the universe in which we live. And it’s a simple as this. If I have one dollar, you have one dollar, and I give you my dollar, and you give me your dollar, now we each simply have a dollar. Right? But if I have an idea, and you have an idea and I give you my idea, and you give me your idea, now we each have two ideas.

And that tells us something about the way this universe functions. It tells us something about the miracle of mind. It tells us something about the depth of the God potential within every person. Because you see, when we give something of ourselves, whether it be giving love, giving something in consciousness, giving something creative that involves the idea forming process of mind, then we don’t lose it.

Someone once said that you never really own anything until you can give it away. It expands and increases as you use it. It is the divine law that is the key to happiness, and success, and health, and fulfillment. It’s the basic idea of the whole universe itself. Think about that, meditate on it. Analyze it in terms of your relationship to life, and in terms of the things you may be involved in during this season.

Because you see, the true Christmas, third dimensional Christmas, the Christmas of the inner self, deals with giving oneself which actually involves a giving way to our greater potential. It’s a kind of birth of the Christ in the manger of consciousness. A commitment to the continued unfoldment of the greater possibilities of our nature.

This is certainly what Jesus’ life was all about. It is certainly not what the Christian teaching has been all about down through the ages. But somewhere way back there in early times, there was a switch that was missed, and there was a tendency to get involved in a worship of the man, rather than a worship of the divine process. Which relates to the same process within you and me.

This is why the poet says, “Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born, if he’s not born in thee, thy soul is all forlorn.” Christmas is an opportunity to see for personal growth, and we talk about growth all the time. Someone might say, can’t you think of anything else to talk about? Well there’s nothing else to talk about if we’re going to talk realistically about life. Because life is growth. This is what it’s all about, no matter what happens. Whether something happens that’s good, something happens that’s tragic, something happens that’s difficult, we must always see it in terms of growth.

How can I grow through this, not just go through it, but how can I grow through it? How can I be the bigger and better because of it? Because in the long run, things may come, and things may go, and people change, and life moves on, but all that really counts is whether or not we grow along the way. That’s what it’s all about.

And if we would really keep Christmas, it calls for a commitment to let something be born in us. Something happen through us, something expressed of the greater depth within us. One of my favorites of the Christmas stories, is Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. I’m sure many of you have read the story, and you’ve seen it on motion picture, you’ve seen it on television, it’s usually a favorite of this season of the year, and at one time or another I think there’s several versions that are being displayed this Christmas on television.

But the story is often told with the emphasis that I believe is all wrong. It’s just like the gospels, it’s so easy to lose the thread, and to place a totally erroneous emphasis. Because this is not the story of delightful Bob Cratchit the poor little guy who was being downtrodden by his boss. It’s not just the story of Tiny Tim, the little boy who can wring our hearts because he’s such a beautiful little guy, and because he says at the end God Bless Us All.

It’s not the story of a mean old man Ebeneezer Scrooge who forever and a day we will look upon as the symbol of all that’s sordid, and all that’s materialistic and that’s the way the world is, we have too many Scrooges. This isn’t what the story really is all about. It is a dramatic story of a marvelous metamorphosis through the influence of the spirit of Christmas. Now many of you know I have long been on a campaign to recover dignity for Scrooge. Because I feel that Scrooge has been given a bum rap.

We’re taking the early part of his life, an we’re giving the emphasis to that. It’s like saying, you had a bad period in your life, let’s admit to ourselves that some of us at some time in our life were a little less than we are now, in terms of consciousness or experiences. It’s like zooming in on that and saying that’s what you are. That isn’t what I am, I wouldn’t want to be held in terms of something I was when I was young, something I was in my adolescence, I am what I am right now, and I am what I’m becoming, and what I’m going to be which is far more than this.

Unfortunately we’ve taken this period of Scrooge and we’re saying that’s the man. It’s not the man at all. You see the story is a story of growth. I feel that somehow Scrooge has become the caricature of meaning, the selfish, the materialistic person, ridiculed, and all those like him are those who are identified with the persons who cry out at all the things that are worthwhile, ah bah humbug!

Mean old Scrooge. But the story is a story of growth. The miracle of change, and the reality of the divine potential that is always present even within the most disturbed or depraved person. So in the end, Scrooge became, and we forget about this, we’ve glossed it over, he became a sensitive employer, a second father to Tiny Tim, and he voiced a strong commitment which is also a part of the story, when he says, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the past, the present, and the future, the spirits of all there is, all three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”

In other words, a person of commitment, a person not unlike the person that you and I are today, right now, where we are. Saying in spite of all that I have been, or done, today through the influence of truth, I can see that there’s something better in life, and I’m committing myself toward growth to go forward. So you see, actually instead of being the villain of the story, Scrooge should be the hero of the story.

Go tell it on the mountain. Let people know about this, because it’s unfortunate, because this is missing one of the things that we miss in all the positive conclusions that have been drawn down through the ages by the great mystic teachers. Because we’ve tended to emphasis morbidity, we say well that’s the way life is, you all got those Scrooge’s around. We need more Scrooge’s around.

In terms of a person who is willing, regardless of whether it came in the night, or how it happened to him, persons who are willing to say, I was wrong, I’ve accepted a higher evaluation of myself, I can see new ways to grow, and commit themselves in the new directions. Praise God for Scrooge, and let’s have more of them.

As a matter of fact, unless what happened to Scrooge happens to you, and to me, during this particular season, then we cannot really say that we’re into Christmas. Or at least that we’re letting Christmas get into us. We cannot really celebrate in a practical and a consciously involved sense unless we are experiencing the same kind of thing that Scrooge did.

So that we can change, and let something be born in us. That unborn possibility of limitless life, which is our privilege, and our responsibility to give birth to. So I say, just kind of think about that, and spread the word. Scrooge is not such a bad guy after all.

There’s a poem by Henry Victor Morgan that’s always been a favorite of mine, it’s not great poetry. But it touches on an insight that I think is dynamic. He says,

From out of this state of strife, and hate, from out of earth’s noise, and fuss. There will yet arise a man God size who will stand for the whole of us. Our ears are sore with the noise with the partialist rant and fuss, who stands for his class, and not for the mass, for the greatest and least of us. In childhood’s day we were taught to pray to one who is father of all, who strengthened the weak, and protected the meek, and noticed the sparrows fall. We’re told of a man, a wonderful man. The greatest this earth e’er trod. Who told each man whate’er his clan, to measure himself with God. And so we wait today and deeply pray in midst of earth’s noise and fuss, for a man to arise in love God sized, in the heart of each one of us.

And one of the greatest ideas ever expressed, and idea which I would like to give to you, and which you can give to someone else, and in the giving, as we said in our illustration of the Universe of Principle, actually find yourself not depleted but having more than one idea. This great idea that there is a man God sized within the heart of every one of us. There is a person God sized within you. There is in you, that which Paul refers to as “Christ in you, your hope of glory.”

This is the greatest news that we can ever receive, this the good news, this the gospel, this the Godspell, this is the message of the ages. That there is a person within you, God sized, that there is that within you that’s greater than weakness, greater than the difficulty, greater than your illness, greater than your physical, your financial, your environmental, your emotional problems.

A person within you God sized, that’s the hope, that’s the promise, that’s what our study of truth is all about. Not that we get a hold of a lot of actions, a lot of metaphysical principles, a lot of affirmations, and spiritual treatments that we say to ourselves somehow trying to put something new within us. There’s nothing that you can put in to any one of us that is going to make us any better. The great need is to awake thou that sleepest, that Christ might shine upon you from within.

Stir up the gift of God within you, that you can release that imprisoned splendor which has always been yours from the very beginning of time. The person God sized at the heart of each one of us. And the inner meaning of Christmas you see, is that this Christ man, this God self, this divine dimension of each one of us can be reborn. Can be awakened, can be stirred up, can be released. That you can be the person that you desire to be.

That you can express more, you can do more, you can overcome, you can be healed, you can have progress in your work, you can do new creative things. You can have a new fire of creativity within you, even though you feel you’ve come to the end of life, the end of your creative abilities. Even though you feel it’s all burnt out within you, you can have a whole new transformation, metamorphosis, you can change. You can begin again.

This is the message of Christmas. So that beyond the seeming tragic aspect of Christmas, and its superficiality, and its tinsel, its glossing over of the realities of life, let’s be very sure that we catch the inner meaning, the third dimensional process, which in itself wraps up into a fourth dimensional process because it deals the cosmic, with the spiritual.

Let’s remember that we’re dealing with something of ourself which is what we really want to be and what we can be. And let’s know that all the desires, and the ideals that you and I have ever held for ourselves, all the hopes, and all the aspirations, relate not to some never never land, some far away thing which is just a dream like Christmas itself.

It relates to what you really are, because you could not really want something, you could not have hopes for something better except that you intuitively have tuned in upon that which is already a process within you. Like the oak tree within the seed, so there is the Christ within you. The God self which is in the person you are expressing right now today.

God so loved the world that he gave you that which is begotten only of him. God so loved you that he gave you the depth of your own God potential. Gave you the Christ of your soul, which means that God has given you an everlastingness in terms of a love that is eternal, that never ends, in terms of life that is all healing, all changing. In terms of prosperity, and success which is all sufficient, all abundant, ever with you, ever flowing through you.

This is the divine promise, and it’s in you right now. The question is as we go out of here, and get involved in the continuity of the status seeking pressure laden experience of Christmas, are we going to let it stop there? Or are we going to stir up the gift of God within? Are we going to know that what it’s all about is talking about something in us that is to be reborn?

The manger is not back there in Bethlehem somewhere, and don’t ever take a trip to Jerusalem or they’ll show you exactly where Jesus was born. And if you talk honestly with the people involved, they’ll say well he could have been born here. I mean it makes great stopping places for tourists, but as the poet says, though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born, if he’s not born in you, all is forlorn.

So it really doesn’t matter whether he was born in Bethlehem of Judea, or Bethlehem, Pennsylvania or where, the important thing is there’s something happening to you. Are you letting your consciousness, your inner self become a manger for the unfoldment and releasement of your own God self?

This is what it’s all about. And it can be beautiful and wonderful. So all of the outer things on the first dimension, all the things that happen on the streets, and the Christmas trees, and the carols, all these can be beautiful. And as we relive through reading the scriptures directly, or through a television story, or play the actual biblical accounts of Luke and Matthew, or whether we get into the inner depths or metaphysical meaning of the story, all that really counts is that you know that it’s the story of you.

God so loved you that he gave you, he gave you. This is the great gift, and when you go out into the world and get involved in service, or work, or sharing, or giving at Christmas time, all you can really give that is of any value is to give you. Give yourself. And when you give yourself, you increase yourself, you expand your awareness of yourself.

So that it’s not too late, whether your gifts have already been given, or whether you are still yet to distribute them, bless each one. Bless each one as an extension of yourself, see it as an actual overflow of something that you are investing of yourself into life, and to people, and to relationships, and you’ll be the richer for it.

So that you find then on this Tuesday morning, not just another day when you’re involved in the pressure laden experience of a Christmas celebration, but a day that is going to be a new day for you, a new beginning, a new birth. The releasement of that God self of you which has been yours from the beginning of time.

But a new conscious level, a new awareness which will lead for you, to you, on that particular day an actual resurgence of health. It can be a healing day. It can be a day of awakening, a day of prosperity. A day when you get new ideas come flocking into your mind. Wonderful things can happen, because the angels of the Lord, and the angels always refer to ideas, come flowing into your consciousness, filling you with challenging, beautiful, inspiring Christ like ideas that change your life. Actually release your life. Help you to express what you’ve always been. This is Christmas. Let’s be still for just a moment.

And I would like us all in a very childlike way, to repair to that place within us which the legends refer to as the manger in Bethlehem. Jesus simply referred to it as the inner chamber which he says, enter into, and close the door. Turn to this manger of consciousness, this quiet, lovely place of pastoral simplicity, and think of it as being peopled with shepherds and wise men. Referring to thoughts of faith and vision, and thoughts of inspiration and dynamic vitality.

Surrounded by sheep, again referring to the beautiful flow of Christ like ideas. See all of this as taking place in your mind, and at the center of it all, a point of light which the poet says, man may desecrate but never quite lose. This point of light is the babe in the manger, it’s the Christ of yourself.

Take a look at that point of light, celebrate it, worship it, worship it in the sense of seeing it as something of which you are worthy. This is your worth ship experience. Recognizing that that light, that park, that beautiful divine idea is the unborn possibility of limitless life. And yours is the privilege of giving birth to it, of releasing it.

So that as the story tells us, it may grow in wisdom, and stature, and favor of man, and of God. This God self of you, this divine potential, so that as you go on your way this day, you will feel quickened, and inspired, and blessed because of this something that’s happened in you. A quickening fire that stokes up your enthusiasm, your creative juices. All the vital parts of your life, flowing beautifully flowing, and you will go forth from here walking in ways of vision, and ways of love, and ways of creativity.

And your life shall be blessed, and this Christmas for you shall be the most beautiful time of your life. Praise God for this realization. Praise God for the vision of the Christ child of our hearts, our own God potential. Praise God for the commitment such as Scrooge found, to keep Christmas always, and let it be a dynamic influence through all the days of our lives. Praise God for the truth that makes us free. Amen.