December 4, 2005

Samuel: Hello, dears.


S: Maybe we should try that again, you think? Hello dears.

Hello. You had them laughing. I don’t know, you know?

S: Volume is up aye, but I was just looking for a bit more zing in the neighborhood. Wait, I know what’s wrong . . .

She’s in harness.

S: There is my precious little prisoned dog. Oma. That’s short for “Oh my God.” Oma. Good., now your energy will pick up just wonderfully because, who could possibly not just be full of life when there is such a beautiful creature wandering around saying, “sniff, sniff, sniff, You smell good. You smell interesting. Can I eat that thing?” All the good stuff.

So this is a remarkable time. Do you know it? Do you feel it? It’s not only a remarkable time because it is such a powerful manifestation time, and that’s very important; it’s a very lovely time because so many people across the world are focused on love, peace, kindness . . .


S: Giving, receiving. Now you see, doesn’t that make for a smile? Aye, of course it does. And that changes things, changes things the most when it’s coming from you. So don’t forget the power of that.

How was your “eat and give thanks day?”


S: Awesome, awesome, really? And what was the awe part?

My parents were possessed with really nice ones. I don’t know where my old ones went. It was great. Laughter.

S: Ah, but let’s rephrase that a bit. “I found myself so grateful because it was as though there was a new heart of love presiding over the family, touching all of us deeply.” Aye, Aye, well that’s sort of like a reflection of you, don’t you think?

I hope.

S: Aye, I would say. Aye.

I had a really good Thanksgiving. I had my mom and dad over for the first time.

S: And most of the people in here don’t know how odd that is.

Yes, because my mom and my dad are divorced. And so they came over, and I was excited at first because I thought I was going to get to be the center of attention from my parents. But what turned out was that they[…]. That’s what every child wants. You did too.

I come from a family of four, so having them to myself was also kind of nice. But the gift was that they ended up connecting and talking for hours and hours and hours, to each other. I was also on the side cooking the food and doing the dishes, and occasionally they would notice that I wasn’t there. It was so nice to see them connect in such a way, which they had never done, because all the other times there were too many people or nieces and nephews and in-laws. So, it was a beautiful thing to share, to watch them really touch back into the friendship they originally had. It was beautiful.


S: What a gift. What a gift you gave them.

[Oma barks repeatedly.]

S: No, she’s telling it just right. That’s exactly the energy floating through, that [blows].

I like that. Aye.

I had, until the day before Thanksgiving, I had thought that it was going to be necessary for me to have two versions of Thanksgiving dinner. My two sons, you know, Cain and Abel . . .

S: Ah, you laugh.

Anyway, at the last minute, I don’t know which one’s Cain and which one’s Abel, but at the last minute one of them said, “Why don’t you call and have it all together?” And when it happened it was really, really nice. The one that was the maddest made the biggest effort to be the nicest and so it turned out just to be just what I wanted.

S: It’s about time you got what you wanted. I would say that it’s good to remember that anger is passion displaced and that redirecting anger has a very powerful push to it, in line with the anger the power of eight. So to channel that into, “I will be good. I will be good” will be very good if they’re actually able to move beyond it. Nice work. It’s tough being a beacon of light in the midst of warring factions isn’t it?

More. Aye.

We did something real different this Thanksgiving. My oldest daughter in Winchester always presents Thanksgiving dinner and like in so many other families, there’s a lot of half-brothers, steps, exes and that sort of thing. And they are all invited, including my ex-husband who . . . we’ve been divorced thirty years, and his wife . . . we all get together. But this year there seemed to be, well, he had cataract surgery a couple of days before Thanksgiving but they were still going to come, and then . . .

S: Cataract is?

Surgery on his eyes. They still were going to make the trip to go to Winchester, which probably wasn’t in his best interest, but it was Thanksgiving and making the effort. And then my youngest daughter was trying to split the two Thanksgivings, one with us and then one with the in-laws. So it’s starting to get real complicated and you could kind of feel the tension. So we were able to convince the family, Don’t come if it’s that stressful for you. It just doesn’t make for good energy that day. So it ended up it was Kathy and her husband and her daughter and her boyfriend and me, and we had the most wonderful time together. It was like it gave, I don’t know, it gave them an out without being obligated and coming up and maybe not feeling at their best being there. And everyone was all right with it. It’s like, it was all right. So, we spent a day of being with who we wanted to be with.

S: And that created a day everybody was grateful for, aye?

Yes, yes.

S: That’s very nice. Sallie, last one.

All my family was there except one grandson and it was just great, and as we were sitting around the table, I was thinking how much my blood family was like my Phoenix family. I’d never put the two together necessarily before, but I just saw that there was the same kind of love and consideration of each person you know, and I was just kind of thrilled with it.

S: Aye. That says a lot. That says a lot. So many people in here are exceptionally grateful that their Phoenix family is nothing like their blood family. It says a lot though, with the love and the acceptance that your blood family offers. That’s good. A little of you rubbed off.


S: This is a season of holy days, which is where you get your “holidays.” Now, if you were just thinking of the words, doesn’t it really sound like it should be a season of evergreen bushes? The winter holly-days, and then we have juniper spring and then we have dogwood summer and, right? Holidays, the Holly-days, and quite often, oh, I have already been “outed” on this one.

Sorry. But you’re not whining. Don’t whine. Yeah. Whine?

S: All right I’ll shine. Very often this time of year, I do what I can to try to weave stories about all of the holidays that are coming in at this time, essentially because you get, particularly you get bombarded with more or less, well, maybe less, but you get more of it, the story that I’m going to be talking about tonight. And you pretty well know the way it works and it’s not a whole lot of fun to tell because you know it, you think anyway. So I move to some of the other holidays such as . . .

Kwanza, Hanukkah . . .

S: Kwanza, Hanukkah.

The winter solstice.

S: Yes, the winter solstice, the Festival Of Light, sure.


S: Already said, aye, and anything else that seems appropriate to make up at the moment.

The Form’s birthday. Yeah, the Form’s birthday. Oh, yeah, the Form’s birthday.

S: Isn’t that The Festival Of Light? Oh wait . . . and generally have a very lovely time doing it. But I’m going to focus back tonight, just for those of you in this audience who absolutely know why I am doing this, just for you who need to hear this once again. It’s not exactly a rerun, so.

This is what, ideally, what your Christmas is based on, and that would be a story of a birth, right? So, what is that story, somebody, anybody, everybody, bits and pieces here and there? What is the story? What is the intent behind what people want to say that this holiday season is about? And do you know why I’m trying to be so careful with that? Because the fact of it is, in this society right now, I think that if you were really celebrating the birth of Jesus the Christ, it would not be starting in September. And it would not bring in quite so many pagan references and be quite the mixture of holidays that it is. I think that it would probably be more like a typical saint’s feast day. Do you have saints’ feast days?


S: And yet this society, particularly this society, your culture, the one you landed in, sets their heart on Christmas as being a celebration, a birthday. And I want to talk about that, Because it’s good for you to remember perhaps why it’s worth celebrating.

So, once upon a time, long, long ago, who’s going to take the story from here?

If I’m going back too far tell me. Mary and Joseph, who were nice boys and girls, were betrothed. They were engaged and it involved both of their families. And at least Mary was very young. I’m not sure how old Joseph was. And Mary found out that she was pregnant, as a matter of fact . . .

S: Always a thrill.

. . . and as a matter of fact an angel told her about it. And so she was really scared about this but she told Joseph about it and told him about the angel and the whole bit, and he goes, “It’s okay, I’m going to stand by you.” Because in that time, if a woman got pregnant before she was married, she could be outcast, probably even . . .

S: She could be stoned.

That was going through my mind. I was trying to soften it for the young people in the audience.

Thank you. [Laughter]

S: I thought it was nice she said, “young people” instead of young person over there at the edge.

Anyway, so . . .

S: That makes some of you very old you know.

Very old.

And so Joseph said, “I’m going to stand by you” and probably stood up for her in the families and everything so that it was okay. And meanwhile, what was happening was that it was the time in the government when people had to be counted again for the taxes. And everybody had to go back to, I guess, where they were born or where their family seat was or something like that. And so Mary and Joseph had to travel to Joseph’s place, which was in Bethlehem, and she was like, ready to pop here, so, there is a story how they travel . . .

S: A really scary thought, she’s a ready to pop.

I had a student like that, but anyway. So she gets to ride on the donkey and they’re going to this place. And they get there and everything’s taken up because there’s no room to stay or anything, because everybody’s there to be counted.

Finally an innkeeper has some pity on them and says, “Well, you know you can stay in my stable. It’s at least warm and dry and you can go in there.” So they went in there and she had the baby. But meanwhile, on the hillside, all sorts of stuff was happening because there was this celebration that happened. And the angels came down to the shepherds and said, “You don’t know, but something really good is happening in Bethlehem and you should go and see, because the Son of God is arriving here. And so they got very excited. There was also this star. I forgot about the star. The star was probably out there a long time, leading the wise men and all that kind of stuff, but, the star . . . who knows what the star really was? There are all sorts of conjectures about that. But it was a really big shiny thing out there and it was pointing right above Bethlehem to signal the way. And so the shepherds came there and they marveled at this new baby. And Joseph was probably thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?”

S: Don’t you know!

And Mary was just tired, I’m sure. And there was a lot of celebration. I don’t really think that the wise men got there right at that night. It probably took them a long time to get there.

S: They started early.

The star was there saying, “It’s coming. It’s coming.” So, anyway, fill in the blanks.

S: You have done a remarkable job, a remarkable job, aye.

Credit to my son, who is really getting me back into Christianity. Yay, Benjamin.

S: It’s a good thing he is not here tonight then.

All right, hold on to your seat for a moment because I want to just ask you something in innocence, all right? You’ve got a lot of interesting details to that story, a lot of interesting details to that story. And yet, nothing was written about the birth of Jesus until 600 years after he was gone. So, how do you do that?

The story gets told and told over again and it changes. Lots of storytelling.

S: And it’s important for you to remember that in a society that worked with oral tradition as an extremely precise, life-or-death precise history, you are going to probably be able to have the essential story without all that many changes. But I said all of that just to let you know that every one of you in here have a different perspective on that story. Every one of you in here have a little bit of a different memory of it —all right—or a different version of it. But there are a few essentials of it that have more or less stayed. One of them is, there was a woman and a man and they were young and they were betrothed, and Suzanne did a remarkable version of that story. I am telling the story for a particular purpose, and so all of the version I am giving you is particularly designed to give you a very specific perspective. That means I’m not going to be spending quite so much time on the grand event itself, because I think just like you are slowly moving through your life until the end of this month when Christmas happens, and you get to run down the stairs and see what Santa Claus brought you—ah, those were the days, weren’t they?

Well, the things that lead up to that momentous event often get lost in the glory of the event itself. And yet the fact of it is, between now, at the beginning of December and Christmas, you are going to have the opportunity to experience today’s version of that story. So, bear with me, please. Join with me, please, as we give a just a little bit of a different look at that story.

Once upon a time there was a woman. She was actually a child. Now, she was a little bit older than probably children are today when women go into their menstruation cycles. Now that’s  . . .


S: Well, she was probably thirteen or fourteen, but was considered to be a woman, no longer a child, and able to be betrothed if not married, able to be betrothed at that first menstruation. So, the very first thing that you have to create the story is a transition from child to woman. And that transition did not involve perhaps some of the interesting rituals that often are a part of other cultures with womanhood, meaning the ability to have children, coming upon the women children and the men children. I could have said that better. That’s a different miracle altogether isn’t it?

But it was very typical amongst these tribal people to bring together houses, bring together families, by betrothing the children once they were at that time of transition. Now, before I go anywhere with that, because I’m not going to be spending much time on it, I want you just to tuck away into your heart, to think about a little later, when was that for you? And do not be coy, gentlemen, I know that there also that equivalent for you.

What were you doing when you were ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen? What was life like for you? What was going on? If you were to let your mind float back a bit . . . not actually looking for an answer here. This you are just tucking in for later thinking. As you’re thinking back, were you ready to commit your life to another person at that point? And were you ready at that point to be a parent?


S: That just popped out of somebody didn’t it? And even to those of you who already are now, are you ever ready to be a parent? It was a very regulated society, which is often the case in a society that does not have a lot of privacy. When you don’t have a lot of privacy, there tends to be a lot of very strict behavioral regulations, such as: you do not go out alone and you do not see these things and you . . . and on and on. And such was the case with that society.

Although Mary, which isn’t exactly the name, nor Joseph, which also is not exactly the name, were betrothed, they really did not have a lot of time together. And when they did have time together they weren’t alone much, certainly not enough for the surprise package inside. Now, two things that I want to put out here for you right now: one of them is, I’m not touching into what virgin birth means. We are talking a young woman who is pregnant and that’s what I want you to look at, all right? Mary finds herself pregnant. Now, what do you think gave it away and how do you get around that? And how do you get around that when, no matter how it happened, it’s not supposed to happen? Have you ever in your life done something that was absolute taboo? Aye, the front row says, “I live it, what can I . . . ?” Because it’s stressful; particularly because in that society, it would cost her her life. She was, well, what? What do you think she was? She was probably shocked and confused and ashamed.


S: . . . very frightened, very frightened. She does not know who she should speak to, if anybody. Maybe she should just go jump down the well. It was done a lot. She is faced with something new and frightening and she is frightened. And she goes to bed and has a dream. And in this dream, a being of great light drops in and says, “Don’t be afraid. This is a good thing, really. You’re going to have a baby that’s going to change this world.” And Mary says, “What in the world did I have in that lamb tonight?” Or maybe not, maybe she says, “Well, all right, I might can go with it, but who’s going to tell Joseph?” And the angel says, “Don’t worry, I’ll do it.” And more or less, same thing happens. “Joseph, I’ve got news for you.” The angel says. “Your betrothed, Mary, is going to have a baby. And don’t worry. It’s going to be a remarkable child, a child that has come here for a particular purpose at a very important time in your world; a child that is going to be called a whole lot of things, but among them; the greatest of teachers, the savior of mankind.”

Now, that’s a really sweet story so far isn’t it? Young kids get in trouble, angels get them out. What I want you to focus on is what they had to be feeling, because through time that doesn’t change. When you have a society that forbids sexual contact before a particular event in life, whatever that might be, to come up pregnant is not considered a good thing. And in fact, when that society says, if it does happen, clearly it’s the woman’s fault and she will be stoned to death and it is the job of the betrothed to do it, well, you’ve got a story right there. Knowing that the story continues, you realize that you’ve got a story right there of two children who said, “No, I choose to do otherwise.” And that’s your story.

Now, Joseph is lying there in bed, the angels just left having imparted this lovely news to him. He’s lying there thinking, “Woe, what is in that lamb?” You know, I think that is a hilarious joke and nobody’s actually getting it. You know, “Lamb of God” and all of that stuff? A bunch of heathens.

Vegetarians. It’s been a long time since I thought of lamb.

S: Obviously. But he immediately knows. He immediately knows, We are in big trouble. What are we going to do? He had choices in front of him didn’t he? And what were his choices?

To follow the rules of society and do as he was taught that he should do, or do what he thought was right.

S: Very right there in front of him: follow the rules of society and—get this—it’s not just society; it’s his tribe, his family, his house. He could follow all of the rules of his culture that he had followed since he was born. And by doing that would follow through by killing his betrothed. All right, that’s one option. So, he’s thinking about it and he’s thinking, “All right, I really don’t have the stomach for that. You know, she’s sort of cute and I like her and our families would be nice bonded together, but what if I just run her out of town? Maybe a caravan will be coming by and we can just hide her. She can get away. She doesn’t have to die. I can say, threw her down the well, and everyone will be happy.” Or maybe there were more options. Maybe there was the, “Well, maybe we’ll just run off and hide together.” But he did not take any of those choices. He actually chose the, “We’re going to stick this out together. We’re going to make it work. I’m going to stand up in defiance of everything I’ve ever been taught and I am going to be with the one I love.” And there is suddenly, in all of the stories, a big blank, isn’t there? Because the next thing you know, they’re on their way. But I’d like for you to take a moment, and with your imagination working, fill in a few of those blanks. What do you think those two children faced? What do you think those two children had to do to be and do what they wanted to? What sort of faith did they have to have, and in what or whom, to follow through with that?

There was indeed a Christmas miracle but it started when Joseph said to Mary, “Let’s do this.” Standing up, taking hands and moving on; standing up to the culture, to the family, to the friends, saying, “I’m not going to do what’s being asked. I’m going to protect this love,” and moving on.

If that story ended right there, that’s an incredible miracle, but it goes on. It goes on because pretty soon there is a census that is being taken and it is required for all of the heads of the households—they’re a household now; there’s a head to it—to go back to the area of the country in which the family was originally from. Now, all of this fits with prophecy that had to line up very specifically and I’m not going there.

I want to talk just a few moments about that trip from one place to the other. It’s all the little in-betweens that matter in this story. By this time, Mary and Joseph have probably weathered the worst of being fourteen and sixteen and having a baby and being sick in the morning and throwing up in the afternoon and going to sleep at three, and have weathered the worst of being pointed at and laughed at and shunned, and are able to remain together and go to the census as their individual household, not their parents’ household. Do you get that? Did you ever realize what that was saying? These were not two kids who had a loving home and family that said, “Here, you just live with us till this is over. Everything’s all right.” No, you had a young man who became an adult, willing and able to care for a family. Now, at that time, that did not only mean able to go to your parents for dinner, so that if things got hard you were always there for them. No, not at all. It meant totally functioning on your own and having a place within that society. Mary and Joseph had actually created, carved, if you will, a place out within that village for themselves. Now that’s another Christmas miracle.

So it comes time for the census, and Joseph and Mary must go to Bethlehem. So they pick up the donkey.

It took me a long time to figure out your word donkey.” Donkey, what in the world’s a donkey?” But I understand quite now why you don’t want to say that Mary and Joseph and the ass went together, because that too would have another totally different meaning within it all wouldn’t it. You would say, “Who was that? Well, it must have been the parent right?”

I want you to think about that ride. For those of you who have been pregnant or who have been with somebody, euphemistically speaking, heavily pregnant, what’s that saying? I want you to focus on the ride from the donkey’s point of view because the donkey, you see, also was a miracle. Some of you’ve been to the Middle East and you know that the burro, the donkey, the ass there, even now, is quite small. It’s nothing like these great, four-legged, beautiful creatures that you’ve got here; even as donkeys, even as mules, even as horses. They’re small creatures. I’m not too certain that it couldn’t be said that they’re sort of like husky dogs. And this donkey helped them make the trip. Heavy load, yes. Wide load.

Belongings, too.

S: And the trip wasn’t one that was only two hours away, as it would be now. It was nearly a week away. Why is the ass a miracle of Christmas, the donkey, thank you, a miracle of Christmas?

Because it probably wasn’t December and cool. It was probably pretty hot at times. He was thirsty. A small donkey probably, normally couldn’t have taken that for a week and might have under normal circumstances died.

S: Aye, probably there would have been more than one, usually, but it was a poor household. Paula.

I would say it was a miracle that they were able to get a donkey, because as a young couple they probably didn’t have any money, so someone had to either lend them the donkey or give them a donkey in some way, because they wouldn’t have had a donkey.

S: Good thinking, perfect thinking. Because the fact of it is, small and troublesome and probably unwieldy as they may be, they were rare. It’s not every family had one. Not every family had the three or four that represented riches. Mary went from being a shockingly pregnant almost teen-ager to riding the donkey. The donkey allowed that ride. The donkey made it through that ride.

The next behind-the-scenes portion of the story is that they’re going through town looking for a place to stay. And of course you know the story well. Everything was filled up because everybody was in town. Everything was filled up. There was no inn to be had, and they went to the last inn on the road and the innkeeper said, “I don’t have anything for you,” and then said, “Why don’t you go stay in the stable?” Now, by your standards that sounds pretty awful, but I want you to remember a couple of things; one of them is, to have animals is quite prestigious and you took care of them. Any donkey that carried a pregnant woman for a week on the road was going to have the royal treatment, because these weren’t just hovels off to the side, sort of like some of the things you see on the roadsides—actually not around here. Actually, around here your stables are rather amazing, aren’t they?


S: Very prestigious. So think of a thoroughbred stable and you’ll be too far along the path that way. That one won’t work either. But rather than it being simply a lean-to with a bale of hay thrown in, as is sometimes the image given, this was a place that was dry, that was warm, that was not drafty. It had soft bedding. It wasn’t unusual for people to bed down in the stables. It wasn’t unusual at all. And in fact, at that time, there was a sort of regular societal acceptance that if you had a lot of money you stayed in the inn, if you did not have a lot of money you stay in the stable. It would be warm. It would be all right. I’d like to be able to tell you they had the private end of the stable but that’s not very true either. But they had the stable. And although that innkeeper gets looked down upon way too often in the stories as they’re being told to children, the fact is, that innkeeper is another one of the miracles of Christmas. Because although he did not have what they need, he was able to direct them to where their needs could be met. And although it might seem as though, “Well, for a night or two, what’s the big deal?” if they’re there for the census, it’s going to be more like a month or two or three. So he was allowing one of his animal compartments to be taken up by these kids and their donkey.

Now keep moving forward into these blank spaces. The next thing in the story is . . . she had the baby. All of you who’ve had one of those, back before drugs, “Just have a few herbs. Here, smell this. It will help.” There is the baby. And all of a sudden the angels are singing and the sky is lit up and there’s gifts and there’s crowds hanging about watching and there’s choirs singing . . .

Drummer boys.

S: A drummer boy, yes, of course.

Are you ready for Jesus?

S: But before all of that happens, in that space, sort of the meanwhile-back-at-the-ranch version of it . . .

Labor, uncomfortable, the mess.

S: That’s right, we’ve not even talked about sanitary conditions have we? Just imagine. In the meantime, while all of this going on, there is in a nearby land . . . now, those of you that have been in the Middle East, you know that everything is nearby. It is a very tiny part of this world. In a nearby land there are, what do you call them? What do you call them?


S: Magicians. I wanted to hear you say wise men. There were wise men who were the magicians. They were the keepers of the king. They were the company of the king, the advisors, the teachers, who were studying the sky and looking at it and saying, “You know it’s really changing.” The time is really coming to a big change. And everything is pointing to this big change happening right away. All of the portals, all of the stars, everything says that this is that time that has been prophesied that a great king is going to come.”

Now, they’re sitting around the throne room talking about this back and forth over a cup of wine, I’m sure, and the king says, “Wait a minute over there. What did I hear you say? Did you say that there is something very important happening somewhere and that it might have to do with the king, and it’s not me? I’d like for you to go find this out. Go check it out and see what you come out with. And be sure to take a few good gifts, too, because if by chance this is going to be the King of All, let’s be on the good side.”

And so they loaded up with gifts. Now, in your world that has a very different meaning than it did in that world. In that world, if you were of the highest echelon, if you were indeed a king, then your gifts were given for the physical and the mental and the spiritual body to be upraised. They brought gold and frankincense and myrrh. Gold was given at a birth to pay for the place of death. “Wait, Wait Samuel, hold up on that one.” You were never poor if there was a place for your body to be lain. It was a very typical custom of the time. It’s one of those that I’m not real sure why that did not last, because it really makes a lot of sense, don’t you think? Although it might not be such a great birthday present nowadays—you just want the gold for your own reasons, but, for then, it was the representation you were going to be able to have a place for your body to rest. Frankincense, that’s the connection, the doorway, if you will, into the spiritual awareness. But once again it’s related to death. And, to speed all of this up, all three of those gifts that are pointedly brought out amidst all of the—oh, what?—receiving blankets and little hats and tiny, tiny socks and all of that stuff that everyone else gave, you’ve got the three magicians showing up, handing out death gifts. “This is for your burial place and here, this is the ointment to rub on your dead body to keep you from stinking and preserve you a bit. And here, this is the incense that will open the doorway between the worlds so that your spirit can be free;” The physical, the mental and the spiritual; the gifts of death as a gift of birth, a recognition that life is but a cycle. As you come in, you also go out, and this life, life born to poor but brave souls, is going to be marked by death.

The magicians, the shepherds—sometime we’ll do the story where you get to be the sheep . . . baa—came to see what was going on. They came to find out what the ruckus was about. Now, the ruckus that they were probably checking into probably had nothing at all to do with Mary and Joseph and the little baby that’s been born and by now is saying, “Mama.” It was probably the caravan that came through town and the highly dressed wise ones saying, “We’re here looking for the newly born king.” And everyone in town says, “Say what?” More southern, aye, “Say what? Huh?’ “Well, there’s a lot of rumors flying about at the inn at the end of the road there. Check out the stable, see what you find.” More than anything, that would be what drew in the shepherds, the choirs, the orchestras; perhaps they were part of the caravan.

Now, all of that, all of that—take a good deep breath for a moment. And I want you to take your head off. Put it aside. I’ve been asking you tonight to think about what it was like. You are coming into that time of your year that’s all about Christmas. You cannot drive down the street without hearing it on your radio or seeing it in the stores or your homes or your own manias and stresses. ‘Tis the season to be crazy, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la la la.

And I want you to remember that you, you are every bit of this story. You are a child at a time of transition, a child at a time of transition who has something frightening and beautiful and holy and scary and life-changing growing inside of you. And you have a decision: Should I just throw myself down the well and try to forget about all of this? Well, Mary got visited by an angel who said, “Don’t be afraid. This really is all part of a greater plan. You see, you are a guardian of this child, and there is greater purpose hanging there. You’re not alone.” And Mary hung in there. And if you had not done the same thing you would not be here right now. You chose somewhere up along the way to accept the burden and consider it a gift. You chose somewhere along the way to keep going. Joseph, chosen to be the Father of God. Well now, if you were Joseph, you probably thought that you were chosen to be the laughing stock of the village, aye. You probably thought that you were chosen to be . . . well, I imagine there’s all kinds of words for what it might look like aye? ”What to do? Can I move up against everything I’ve ever been taught? Do I love her that much?” I will tell you the answer there was, “No.” Once again, we’ve got a little heavenly intervention going on, “Joseph, this really is a gift, so get over it, will you? Stop thinking about yourself.” You didn’t have that version of the Bible now did you? It’s a better translation. It’s the way your angels have to talk to you most of the time isn’t it? They say, “Joni, stop that. What are you thinking now. It is going to be all right.”

Mary and Joseph displayed something that people today hardly display: trust. Not faith, trust. And it’s not the angels that they were trusting in. It may be that the angels were going to be able to give one of those interesting dreams—got to have that same lamb over and over and over—those interesting dreams to everyone in the village. That’s all they could hope for. No, their trust was that Joseph would trust Mary, would trust Joseph, would trust Mary, would trust Joseph. Their lives were in each other’s hands. Instead of saying, “I’ll do the right thing and we’ll do what we can to make the best of it,” he made a place within their society for them both. I cannot give you a strong enough, powerful enough statement for you to understand what an outrageous act that was. Joseph said, “Yes.” And Mary said, “Yes.” And in that time between saying yes and toddling down the road to Bethlehem, they carved a life with each other, enough of one to be able to toddle down the road to Bethlehem. And in this world, in this life, when in your own way you are faced with those very sorts of, “This is the worst thing that could possibly happen,” or this season of families that don’t understand and don’t get along and don’t accept, well, you have within you the heritage of two who said, “We can do this.”

When is the last time in your life you chose hope. I know it would be very, very nice if I could say that what they chose was love, and as was the nature of that time, love surely came along later. They chose hope.

[Oma whines] My thoughts exactly.

They go into town. The innkeeper thinks outside of the box, bed, and says, “Got room in the stable. You can go there if you want.” The innkeeper provided the miracle of, “I don’t have much to offer but I’ll give you what I have,” the gift of being without an ego so large that it says, “I can’t give you anything because it’s so little and I’m embarrassed to give you my pittance. I cannot give you the lordly room at the inn, so I must send you away.” No, he said, “This is what I have. Can it be helpful?” Thinking outside of the bed that is. The beds were boxes.

And then the gift of death, the most powerful experience you can have while you are alive is to come to a place in your life in which you are not chained to your life. And what I mean by that is not chained to this, this sparkly-wearing, got-to-get-hair-cut and must-feed-it-good-food . . . whatever . . . self; this “you” that looks out into the world with the need that says, “I must be liked. I must be accepted. And I’m not going to do anything that’s going to keep me from being liked and accepted.” To be able to die every day is what allows you to fully live. Die to what does not work, to what is not needed, to what holds you back and holds you up and keeps you from bravely facing the elders and saying, “We’re going to do this together,” as Joseph; that says, “I’m going to follow this through,” like Mary; that’s able to give what you have because it’s right, because you can, like the innkeeper. And that is always ready should death show up tomorrow. Who would be cleaning up after you if you died tomorrow? What do you need to do to make your living free of your death and your death the gift of your life? The shepherds left their flocks, brought their flocks, they watched in awe. And the shepherds, my darling, are the saddest part of the story, because the shepherds were so much like most humans today. “There is a circus in town. Let’s go see.” With the exception of the drummer boys—they just carried background music, maybe?

Because, you see, the Christmas story has room for everybody, including those who want to do nothing more than just hang around the edges and watch. And you can do that. You can sit right outside the most incredible miracle this world has ever produced and you can watch. You can say, “Look at that, God in flesh, what do you think?” I do all the time; I look at you and I say, “What do you think? Look at that, God in flesh. What do you think?” Or maybe that was, “What were you thinking?” You can let the wise men do the work and let the innkeeper be the innovative thinker; and you can let Mary and Joseph make the hard decisions, and you can stand on the end and watch. Or you can be a part of the miracle that is your life right now. You are here and, may all the legions of heaven forgive my statement right here as I say, while this angel says, “Wake up. There’s some really exciting things coming on in your life right now. And don’t worry; it will all be all right. You’re going to be cared for every step of the way. Don’t be afraid. All that was promised is coming to pass, and this is a time of miracles.”

This is Christmas. All right, Santa Claus and the right present for everybody, and wishing that your family got along like the ones on the television do, and decorating your house and yourself and your workplace with all of the ancient symbols of pagan worship, that are all magic to get you to buy things. Aye, they don’t tell you that part do they? Why do you think they call it holidays? I’m really not joking there, but never mind. So you’ve got that “rush your heart out until Christmas” or you’ve got a miracle of birth, of death, of acceptance, of trust, of a willingness to take a deep breath and hold onto your heart and say, “We can do this.” You’ve got eight tiny reindeer or a new earth, and the gift, my darling, the gift is your choice.

Now, some of you do sort of look like fat, jolly elves, it’s true, but I would rather see you choose the other story and look a little more like the hope for humankind, bright and fresh and new and strong and willing to say “Yes.”

Give the world a gift by really being what that story is all about. But watch the shepherds. They’re just there lurking on the edges, watching the miracle.

Glochanumora. Happy Christmas.