EBUP23: The Christmas Perspective

Eric Butterworth Unity Podcast #23

Eric Butterworth Sunday Services — The Christmas Perspective

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Well, it’s beginning to look like Christmas and sound like it too. The sights and sounds and smell of Christmas is in the air. It’s a magic time for some. It’s a tragic time for a few also. Magic for the obvious reasons that it transforms whole cities and homes and men’s hearts and tragic because behind the façade, in many cases, there’s loneliness, emptiness. And the pressures of obligation and guilt and conformity, which enter in so much to the practice of Christmas.

Speaking the ... Scrooge concept of bah, humbug, we have the thoughts of Phillip Wylie refers to the hopped up, pressure laden, status seeking, competitive degradation that is Christmas. Many who have survived many Christmases. Many feelings mixed, at times. Feelings of nostalgia, looking back to other Christmases, perhaps warmer times, more prosperous times. Others like children looking forward joyously in expectation, sometimes for things beyond possibility of attainment.

What’s it all about? This thing we go through every year? This charade we play? What is Christmas about? A college professor was giving a word association test. Because it was the Christmas season, on a whim we included the word Christmas. When you heard the word, you were supposed to put down the first word that came into your mind, associating with it. When he checked the test over later, he was surprised to find that after Christmas, there was not one word that mentioned Jesus. There was Christmas tree, Santa Claus, carols, gifts, candles, holly, no Jesus.

How can indicating the same feeling is the story of two women who were looking at a Fifth Avenue store window that had a lovely Christmas creche, animated. One woman said to the other, “Wouldn’t you know it? The Church is even trying to horn in on Christmas.”

What is Christmas? After focusing beyond the Santa Claus syndrome, we might bring ourselves to say it’s the birthday of a king. One thing December 25th is not is the birthday of Jesus. There’s no record of the early life of Jesus. Matter of fact, later scholarship indicates that it was a mistake made in that first day of the first year, which is called Anno Domini, or the Year of Our Lord, that sets the beginning of time in the modern era. A mistake was made four or five years ... So as we get into New Year’s this year, it may surprise you to know that ... literally, it’s we’re going to the year 1996. You don’t want to pay attention to that, sure. Especially the IRS.

It’s shocking to some people to look at the facts of the case that there’s history of the early life of Jesus. No knowledge, actually, of when or where it took place. Human legends that have evolved, perhaps soon after the writing of the Scriptures, which took place 40 or 50 years after the fact, legends of the wise men and the shepherds and the angel coming to the manger where the child lay. And the inn where Joseph and Mary found no room, had to go in a cave. These are all legends. Doesn’t mean that they’re not true. They’re myths, as Joseph Campbell so aptly put it. Basically, they have evolved for reasons of symbolical ideas, visions.

But ... mistaken if we think that they happened exactly as this. Might not have happened, at all. Or if they did happen, they were probably a lot different. The easiest one to see from logic is the story of the holy family coming in to the inn. We think of them stopping in at a Howard Johnson’s motel. And the hotel was full, so there was no room for them. That’s the way it’s evolved. And how laughing revelers in the bar of the inn, and the innkeeper coming to tell Joseph and Mary there was no room and they had to go elsewhere.

And we see it in the light of modern day awareness of the situation and the scholarship that has descended it. The inn was Khan, K-H-A-N, which was an enclave, little more than a shelter from the ravages of the highwaymen and the wild animals. They claimed ... it was shelter, but they still slept on the ground. There was no rooms. When the innkeeper said there was no room at the inn, he was being very lovely, and he said, “We have no room for birth of a child, here. So let me take you to a cave.” And he took them to a cave up in the hills where they could find warmth. And the poor innkeeper who has always been reviled as one of the Scrooge characters of the situation, terrible person who wouldn’t let the child of God to be born. It was a very loving act and a tender act of his, to find the cave in the hill. It’s just an indication of how most of the legends have grown and evolved, have become a part of a romantic keeping of the birth of a king.

December 25th date was set by a church historian in the sixth century A.D. ... influenced strongly by church historian by the feast of Saturnalia. Romans had seen the futility of martyring Christians, and saw the Christianity movement as a threat to the state. So as the tradition has it, if you can’t beat them, join them. So they adopted Christianity. That’s back of the bulk of Christian traditions. Is the traditions of the feast of Saturnalia, which is a Roman holiday, seven day celebration. Houses were decorated, work was suspended, schools closed, no punishments inflicted, no wars were fought. And Father Saturn came down from the North Pole with toys for children. Sound familiar. Doesn’t it? Like in ancient Rome.

Down through the years, there’s been a strange dichotomy from the pious observance of holy day to the happy holiday gatherings and gift giving which, too often, becomes a holiday of paste on piety and plastic trees. The delusion is that when we have kept Christmas and we have engaged in the annual charade and all the legends that go with it. Pretty soon the ornaments and the garlands are packed away for another year, and stores make a quick transition to January white sales ...

Much like a neighbor who we had a few years ago. A real practical person. He didn’t waste an effort. He was a very busy person, on the go. Her commenting on the lovely Christmas tree, she said, “Oh, yes. I always have this.” But how do you have time to decorate it so lovely?” “It’s easy. I cover it with a sheet of plastic, and I take it down to the basement like it is. Next year, I bring it up, take the plastic off, and voila! Christmas.”

The Nativity story deals with the wakening of consciousness of the son of God himself. It has a tremendously important symbolical meaning, if we accept the Scriptures in a metaphysical sense. And the beautiful thing ... but unfortunately, in most cases this symbology leads only to a dead end, it has nothing involved in a personal relationship. It was not dealing with something 2000 years ago, but a divine depth within you.

It is not known by many folks and not believed by those who know it, Jesus did not intend to start a new religion or to be an object of worship. He said, “I came not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it.” He didn’t come to tell the world of his divinity, making him a great exception, but to tell the world of our divinity, making himself the great example. It is not just a play on words. It’s a very important insight. Christmas is meaningless unless it has this beautiful insight. He didn’t come to tell us of his divinity, and the events that happened are not describing his divinity. The life that we must understand to get the rest of the Christmas idea is with his great exception, the great example, of the divine possibility of himself which he discovered to be a possibility in every person.

So the great event in the life of Jesus was not his birth, but the breakthrough in consciousness through the years of his life. He discovered the indwelling Christ, the divine dimension within all persons. The only things that gives Christianity its meaningfulness in our lives, it deals with God-Self of you. Thinking of Jesus that lived sometime. Thinking back to Jesus, it looks upon the great discovery that He made of the divine depth within you.

So the celebration of Christmas must involve, if it’s going to be meaningful, the dynamics of Jesus’s life, and the applications of the teachings that he brought for us. Strange enough, so much of Christianity is involved in the legends and the myths and the ritual and the form and ceremony that evolved from them ... So much attention is given to this that the focus of the divine possibility of man is left out. In many cases, the teachings of Jesus, the basic roots of the teaching, are left out. And most of the fundamentals of Christianity, ideas that have evolved, in the years since ... the virgin birth of Jesus, Second Coming of Christ, and infallibility of the Bible, all these things have evolved through the years ... have nothing whatever to do with the original story, which we don’t know anything about, anyway.

So the celebration of Christmas must involve the practice of the teachings. We have to go to the Scriptures to see what these teachings are, because in many cases they’re left out, omitted. Such teachings as His statement, “All these things that I do, you can do, too, if you have faith.” That’s a statement that you rarely hear in a Christian church. It takes away all the fundamentals of the church, religion, about Jesus. But it tells the religion of Jesus. Hear of all of you can do. You have the divine possibility within you. You can heal. You can rise from the dead. It’s a great possibility that lies in the heart of every person.

Especially, don’t accept it literally that we’re going to rise from the dead today or tomorrow or next year. But the possibility is in the eternality of life. Inside you, day by day, we’re discovering more and more.

Why, then, do we have December 25th? It can be and it should be an opportunity to live for a brief season, to express the transcendent level of ourselves and of mankind. It’s transcendent level is at its zenith to the point now that the spiritual point of the world. It’s a marvelous opportunity to give expression to something of the God possibility that is in every person and describe peace on earth, good will toward men.

Some of us said that if there were no Christmas, we would have to invent one. Because it has been, and always has been, a tremendous breaking up of the shell of humanity, facing small glimpses of the divinity. This concept of Christianity is kept alive by monks and recluses down through the ages living in caves. It’s the underground source and the sheer, pure truth, which is so very important to all of us.

Christmas is like an oasis in a strife-torn world. Talk to a person who will say he doesn’t realize the depth of the spirit within life, he says, “What’s the world coming to?” He’s thinking negatively. He’s looking at the terrible things in the world. The strife, the crime, the terrorism, sickness, hunger. What’s the world coming to? If only he could look up in childlike wonder, like the myth of Jesus, virgin birth, coming alive in his consciousness, making sense to him, he’ll say not, “Look what the world is coming to,” but “Look what is coming into the world.”

Look what is coming into the world. It’s coming through people like you, holding the divine possibility within yourself. And look to old people who have this perspective, seeing the God possibility within them. Because the legend ...

There’s so many legends about Christmas. There’s one that I love, of the origin of the Christmas tree. If there’s one thing that Christmas has become to many folks, it’s putting up the tree, decorating up, putting on the lights, thinking of it as a place of honor in the home. Legends that have fostered in this family who gathered around the fire and one Christmas Eve they were celebrating, they were having some of the traditional Christmas festivities. There came a knock at the door. Looking at door, there was a child, hungry and cold. He was warmed and fed, and little hands gave the child his bed for the night. In the morning, amid singing of angels, the child was transfigured. They became aware of the fact that this was the Christ child. They say the child broke a branch from the fir tree, and “Henceforth,” he said, “this tree shall always bear its fruit at Christmas and you shall always have abundance.”

Since that time, for people throughout the world, Christians and non-Christians alike, taken trees into their home and decorated them. When I was a child, this was a very important function in the home. I used to spend during the early days of the Depression, our family was as hard hit as most folks. There was no money. Not enough to buy food, sometimes not enough to do that. Our mother was always really creative. She said, “We always have Christmas.” And though we sometimes didn’t have money for gifts, money for the special things that you have at Christmastime, we always somehow found enough to buy a tree, that you could buy in those days for some 35 cents. Times are different now.

Bring a tree into the home, Mother would have us sit around and spend evening hours in the week before Christmas creating ornaments for the tree. We would create these paper linked chains that we put around the tree, we’d string garlands of popcorn, take acorns and things outside that we’d bring in to put on the tree. And some of the few little ornaments that we’d accumulated through the years in the family. As we progressed, we had the beautiful Christmas tree. It always insisted, because it was there throughout the week, insisted that we have a glorious Christmastime. If it was money, we would take perhaps as much as 10 cents apiece, and we’d all creatively go out and buy a gift. In those days, the Five and Dime and Woolworths, could buy anything for 10 cents. You’d buy one gift for one person in the family. There was always a gift for one person. Mother always had something she had made, crocheted or knitted, around the Christmas tree. And we had the greatest Christmastime.

What now so often today is considered an essential for Christmas. People have long Christmas lists and spend hours of time making sure that there’s a scarf for Joey and a watch for Mary, and on and on it goes. So often in the process. And it was the spirit.

I discovered an instance in the Scripture, recently, an occurrence in the Book of Exodus. I think it’s very relevant here. The Israelites, as you recall, had just experienced the crossing of the Red Sea, which many called a miracle, but which is seen in light of metaphysical interpretation as a entirely different meaning. But they crossed the Red Sea, and they were grateful. They went three days without water. They were in the desert, remember. Three days without water. Eventually, they came to the Well of Mara. But lo and behold, the water was bitter. People were murmuring against Moses. Murmured, in those days, meant griping. And they tell Moses was, “You brought us out of Egypt, where we had homes and warm houses, and we came out here to starve.”

And Moses prayed. And as the Lord showed him a tree and threw it into the water, and the waters became sweet. This is the first reference to pollution in history. The well was polluted. The first anti-pollution technique, neutralizing herb.

Three days without water represents out of the flow of life. The promise is that one can survive in the wilderness experience if one keeps in tune with the infinite. Metaphysically, it describes the fact that the people were polluted, and created life, created life’s stream, because they had been engaging in impure, destructive thoughts, bringing on themselves sickness, lack, and misery. The Lord, who showed unto them a tree, not a vindictive God laying troubles on the people, represented divine law, the law which is always present in sickness and in health, in the deserts and in the lush places of life. Moses represents the upward reach in each one of us, leading us to our good through Red Seas and through desert places into our Promised Land. Leading us to our good.

We our time of wilderness experience, it’s giving rise to lack and illness, we return to the Moses factor within, the upward reach of the spirit, we will be guided in the form of a tree to throw in the water, to sweeten the waters. Many are the wells that are bitter in life. Many of the the things that we look forward to eagerly in life, such as success or achievement of certain things, when we find them, they’re bitter experiences. They don’t bring the joy and happiness that we thought would come with them. The important thing is that we turn within, to our inner, divine flow, the Moses factor within, and always find the tree and the direction to cast the tree into the waters, and bitter waters become sweet.

In the world where the atmosphere is polluted literally and figuratively, people pray. And if we listen, if we listen and hear the voice of spirit within, the Lord shows unto us a tree. It can be, symbolically, the Christmas tree that you bring into your home, you decorate. You symbolically see this as the tree of life that you adorn with the fruits of your spiritual consciousness. The lights that you put around the tree could represent the circle of light that we have talked about, this prayer for world peace. If you see the tree covered with butterflies representing life, strings of hearts representing love, and the linked chains made out of paper, representing friendship, and the dove representing peace. All adorning the Christmas tree, the tree of life, within you.

You are like to decorate the tree, your gift to the world. Let the Lord say unto you sometime during this season, figuratively, cast the tree into the bitter waters of life. Let your tree be your gift to the world. The crime of our cities, the hunger throughout the world, the strife that is, praise God, depreciating and lessening because of new accords reached among people, among the nations. That you have the tree of life that you can cast into the waters and help to bring sweet waters.

Many of you have read our Christmas letter when we talked about our Point of Light prayer project. This begins two weeks from today. Each person will be invited to devote just five minutes a day in to provide prayer visualization. We will provide for you a sheet each first Sunday of the month when we have our assembly, provide you with a visualization to hold and a prayer affirmation. And five minutes a day. Perhaps a person will say, “I’m too busy to take part in a prayer project.” Too busy? Too busy to give five minutes? Just five minutes a day.

How often have we heard the cry, “Let’s put Christ back into Christmas.” I think we need to say, “Let’s put ourselves back into Christmas.” Because we can keep the charade, we can do all the outer things and let the spirit go untouched. One thing we need to always, and we need nothing but a healthy imagination, create a Christmas tree in the mind. Decorate the tree. Put all the things that your imagination can provide. Let this tree be your gift to mankind. Somewhere during the season, perhaps after the Christmas Day is over, symbolically, figuratively, cast your tree into the waters of life. See your tree as a neutralizing agent to make the bitter waters sweet. Bring peace into your home, into your relationships, into your work. Prosperity into our land. All good, going forth from you.

Let’s put ourselves back into Christmas. Let’s begin seeing with a Christmas perspective, beholding people in the light of divinity within them and from the light of divinity within ourselves. The fact is the birth of the Christ isn’t limited to one day. It belongs to an order of life that is not yet attained, the glimpse of the human race that is yet to be. Christmas is more than a day, or not a celebration. It is Christmas whenever and wherever the human heart, empowered by the Christmas spirit, is moved by the expression, “unselfish love.”

I’d like you to join me for a moment in a visualization. I’m giving you the project of creating a Christmas tree of the mind. Let’s just feel that, now. And perhaps we’d like to do the work on it, later. Talking about a vision, a visualization, an image in your consciousness. Because it is a vision, an image, let’s make it real. Let’s see yourself going out on the street, purchasing a Christmas tree. And perhaps if you want to do it in a more homespun way, think of the old days when you went out in the country with your ax and you found a tree in the woods and you brought it back into the home.

Install this tree in the corner of the mind. Fix it solidly so it will stand, will stand there through all the season. Then, creatively, decorate your tree. Don’t think of going in the shops and buying all the expensive ornaments, because they become more expensive every year. Let’s think of creating our ornaments. Let’s build little butterflies of paper or papier mache. Let this be the spirit of life which you endow yourself. See little hearts that you put over the tree, symbolizing love that warms in your heart and goes forth to all persons. Make an old-fashioned, paper-link chain. Make it big enough to go all the way around tree and up and down in a very artistic way, representing friendship.

And install the circle of light. Use the little lights that may not be expensive lights in the stores. Perhaps they’re lights that were taken from stars, that were twinkling in the night. Take many stars, and handfuls of them, scatter them around your tree and the tree comes alive and alight and aglow.

On the top of the tree, put an angel. Not a real angel that people would have a hard time understanding. But the angelic spirit of the Christ process within each person. Send it to the top of your tree with a wand in hand, ready, if you’re awake to the child likes within you. Let that wand bring happiness and joy into your heart.

And when the season is over, see yourself taking this tree and going into the world and casting your tree into the bitter waters of Mara. The bitterness and the heartaches, the hunger, the depravity, the lack of friendship, heartlessness, impoverishness, everywhere. See this tree becoming your antidote to the polluted waters of life. If you can see yourself making this contribution to the peace of the world, state of welfare of mankind everywhere, it can be said that you’ve kept Christmas.

And you will have kept it whether you believe in the Christmas idea or not, whether you had the time, the attention, and the money to provide a great Christmas for your family, all that matters not. The most important thing ... you bring this antidote of the sweetness of your tree to the bitter waters of the world. Commit yourself, that during the days to come, you’ll create this tree of the mind, maybe symbolically a tree in the home, too, but by all means, create the tree of the mind. Commit yourself to take this tree and cast it in the bitter waters of the light, your contribution to peace and love and harmony, everywhere. Then it can be said that we have kept Christmas.

In consciousness then we can say, as little Tiny Tim said, “God bless us all, everyone.” Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. So be it.

[Eric Butterworth continues:]

At this time every week, we have a ... what we call a circle of light time. Busy a time to give ourselves and our conscious, our love and our good fellowship to the world. We touch on this briefly, today, because we have given our attention to the Christmas tree project.

I invite you to just be still for a moment. Just envision, now, once again, the tree that you have created in your mind, or the plan that you have for creating it in the days to come. Think of this tree with the lights on it as the circle of light representing the love and peace and power and all good that you surround all persons with throughout the world.

See it also in the light of the commitment that you make to cast this tree upon the fluid waters of life, may it become the sweetening agent to bring peace and love and fellowship to the world. Just hold this for a moment. Sit yourself at the foot of your tree. Love it. Be a part of it.

[A singer sings a Christmas carol. This is not transcribed, but you may listen to the singer if you play the audio]