In this country the Christmas story remains the main event and the primary celebration of lights for people of deep Christian faith as well as for many of those without that commitment.
In my blogpost, From Darkness to Light – part I and at the Christmas Candlelight service last week I spoke about the LIGHT that is celebrated across many cultures this time of year. In my talk I explored the importance of the light that came with the birth of the Christ child by examining the specific terminology used by the Angel who appeared to the shepherds in the fields.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed…3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and lineage of David 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
I was struck, perhaps for the first time in my life, with the phrase; “the glory of the Lord”.
I knew that I had read this same phrase in other areas of the Bible so I went looking and found it. Notably in the Torah in the Parshat Mishpatim (Book of Exodus, chapter 24), in the Parshat Pekudei (Book of Exodus, chapter 40) and once more in the Divrei Hayamim II (2 Chronicles).
In Exodus, the significance of the Glory of the Lord is revealed in the text where it states:
15 And Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 And the glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days, and He called to Moses on the seventh day from within the cloud. 17 And the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire atop the mountain, before the eyes of the children of Israel.
In chapter 40 after Moses and Aaron had erected a tent – specifically the the Mishkan of the Tent of Meeting (Mishkan meaning residence).
33 He set up the courtyard all around the Mishkan and the altar, and he put up the screen at the entrance to the courtyard; and Moses completed the work. 34 And the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the Mishkan. 35 Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud rested upon it and the glory of the Lord filled the Mishkan.
Then, again in II Chronicles, chapter 7 when Solomon had finished the building of the Temple.
1 And when Solomon finished praying, and the fire descended from heaven and consumed the burnt offerings and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the House. 2 And the priests could not enter the House of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the House of the Lord.
In typical biblical style, this glory of the Lord is described indirectly by the impact it has on its surroundings and the people who encounter It. In the story from Luke, this glory of the Lord shone all around a bunch of shepherds – and they were frightened. Let’s keep in mind that shepherds were a pretty tough crowd. They stayed outdoors for much of the year, fought off wild animals and bandits who would steal sheep and other livestock and were pretty tough characters by the nature of their work. For something to come across their path and scare them that badly, it must be significant and I think that history has maintained that it was significant.
In metaphysical studies we learn that the word Lord translates into Law and so this GLORY of the LORD is the telling of a SPLENDOROUS or MAGNIFICENT LAW. Ernest Holmes called it “a power for Good in the Universe“.
Science and History (including Church history) have revealed that the child was not born on December 25; that the virgin birth was a concept added several hundred years later (and a concept that appears in many other traditions) and that much of the beloved story of Christmas that we tell and retell every year is more folk tale than fact. Still it is a folk tale worth telling; a wisdom tale.
The birth of the Christ represents the entrance into this world of the Christ consciousness; the emergence of a new paradigm for humanity. And this paradigm Jesus, as well as many other wise teachers, shared with the world throughout his life. These concepts were not new for all of the world, as they were documented for centuries in Eastern and other texts. But for the non-sage/non-Yogi/non-scholar, this wisdom was life-changing.
This magnificent light; this Glory of the Lord was the story of freedom. The freedom to be, to choose, to determine our destiny based on the magnificence of spiritual Law. And it came to the common person in a story that all could understand: a message brought first to common shepherds; and told through the birth of a child in a homeless family – to an unwed mother. The message of the Christmas story was intended for the rest of us.
Jesus the Christ would grow up to teach the power of this Light in verses now codified as the New Testament, including:
7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Book of Matthew)
38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. (Book of Luke)
The message of the LIGHT at Christmas is that we all have access to Its power. The birth of the Christ Child represents humankind’s journey from the darkness of ignorance and limitation into the light of possibility and power. And this message of LIGHT is so powerful that is has expressed over and over and over in stories across cultures, geography and time.
We embrace this time of year at a visceral level, whether we enjoy the modern frenzy or not because deep down we know that regardless of the color of the decorations, or words in the songs; this time of year is our opportunity to remember and recalibrate our own journey into the Light.