Today, according to SOMEBODY'S calendar, we have lit the candle of love. As the moment of the incarnation of the Christ Consciousness approaches, we are impressed with the idea of love born anew in our hearts, because love bears us into a new, and ever new, and ever renewing reality of spirit.
1 John 4:7-16
7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.
14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.
16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
There can be no more important subject, than love, for human beings to consider at this time of year; and yet the vastness of the subject makes it difficult to approach in anything like a systematic way. Love is an easy word to bandy about, because it has so many meanings and inflections; therefore, it might behoove us to first narrow the field a little, so we have some clear idea of what we are talking about. A general definition of love will help me clarify my understanding of the meaning of Christmas love.
To me, the ultimate, all-purpose definition of love is as a synonym for CONNECTION--either that, or SYMPATHY. In either case, the implication is that people who love each other have something in common--they are connected by spiritual ties that enable them to share feelings, thoughts, and experiences, etc. It is love that enables us to magnify the resonance of our connection to our neighbors into a dynamic energy level that is cosmic in scope. The love at the source of all being brings us together through realization of the Christ Consciousness. Since the beginning of time, (and before then), we have been ONE in love, and, thanks to Jesus we can know it here and now. At Christmas we remember that the Christ Consciousness descended to earth in the body of Jesus Christ because God loves us, because God in us sought to reveal to our limited rational consciousness the CONNECTION between Himself and us. Furthermore, we, all of us, seek our places of harmony and sympathy, somewhere on the continuum of the manifold levels of human consciousness, through love; I say we SEEK it through love, but we FIND that place through the grace bestowed on us by the heavenly entities assigned to care for and guide us through the entanglements of mundane existence.
Here are a few quotes from famous people about love at Christmas. Usually, I present my quotes in a large block, and then comment at the end. Today I am taking a less structured approach, in the hope that this element of improvisation will discover its own implicit meaning. Some of these quotes are serious, some are just for fun, like these first few:
Roses are reddish
Violets are bluish
If it weren't for Christmas
We'd all be Jewish.
A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.
Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we're here for something else besides ourselves.
People can't concentrate properly on blowing other people to pieces if their minds are poisoned by thoughts suitable to the twenty-fifth of December.
"Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it 'white'."
Now for some more serious ones:
The only blind person at Christmastime is he who has not Christmas in his heart.
Remember that we have spoken at length about the lights of Christmas. Imagine a person who has no memory of light--how can they see the lights on the trees, in the shop windows, on the angels' wings? How deprived they must feel; and yet Helen Keller denies the lack. Perhaps the light of heaven possesses a quality of intelligence that enlightens the mind through the heart and not the eyes.
Love came down at Christmas
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Stars and angels gave the sign.
Besides being a wonderful poem we can never be reminded too often that love came down.
17Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
What a miracle that love falls on us from above, like the thrill of mental energy that radiates downward through us, when we make contact with higher worlds, or experience tangible spiritual blessings. Or, is this such a magnificent condescension after all? Does this love interpenetrate existence at every level, such that love coming down is the same thing as us reaching up? Again, if there is one dogmatic principle, I have become intellectually committed to since taking over the responsibility of composing these sermons, it is that love through grace is GIVEN, but the Personal Love of God is CHOSEN. Heaven came down and glory filled my soul--hmm--this construction leaves out the CHOICE. I think, maybe it should go:
"Heaven came down
and then we all moved in."
Maybe that doorman is not that reliable? Saint Peter was always a little eccentric don't you think?
Clearly, though, the word "interpenetration" should appear somewhere in our definition of love. If we are going to succeed in "pumping up" our spiritual sensitivities this Christmas, we will need to focus conscious attention on states of mind that lean outside of the box. We must seek love in places where we don't usually seek it; we must look below in pre-conscious wells of collective memory, and we must look above at the glare of heaven, at the light, still too bright for our puny powers of apprehension.
The message of Christmas is that the visible material world is bound to the invisible spiritual world.
Of course, no collection of Christmas quotes would be complete without something from the Christmas Carol:
I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.
The image in this quote of humanity flowing down a common road toward a common goal, is very compelling to me. I like, especially, to imagine the light of Christmas love drawing us closer together for a short season, focussing the crowd a little more densely on the road. It is tempting to wish for this common goal all year round, but the comfort of that idea is quickly dispelled when we remember that God's love makes us highly individual, with destinations on many difference street corners.
C. S. Lewis was quite definite about this point. He insists, repeatedly, that Losing your SELF in God (that is, losing the self you have made up in your mind)--losing your made-up self allows you to FIND your true self; a self that exceeds, in magnitude, all the distinctions and possibilities ever dreamt of by the made-up self. Thus, giving yourself to God realizes more of your one-of-a-kind self than any paltry literal definition ever could.
C. S. Lewis
The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in His own favor that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbor's talents--or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognize all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things. He wants to kill their, animal self-love as soon as possible: but it is His long-term policy, I fear, to restore to them a new kind of self-love--a charity and gratitude for all selves, including their own; when they have really learned to love their neighbors as themselves, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbors. For we must never forget what is the most repellent and inexplicable trait in our Enemy; He really loves the hairless bipeds He has created, and always gives back to them with His right hand what He has taken away with His left.
As an artist, this passage always gives great comfort because the problems of ego are so troublesome. C. S. Lewis speaks of animal self-love, and "a new kind of self-love--a charity and gratitude for all selves, including their own." Christmas reminds us to sublimate self-love, into divine love connecting us to our neighbors, to God, to our-neighbors-in-God, and God-in-our-neighbors.
Pope John XXIII
Mankind is a great, an immense family. This is proved by what we feel in our hearts at Christmas.
Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.
Fail not to call to mind, in the course of the twenty-fifth of this month, that the Divinest Heart that ever walked the earth was born on that day; and then smile and enjoy yourselves for the rest of it; for mirth is also of Heaven's making.
This invitation to merry-making, to celebrate the feast with song and trivialities, confirms my feeling that that materialist side of Christmas is really okay. I like presents, I like Santa Claus, I like getting out in that stream of life (I mean big-city commercial life) once in a while and tasting the excitement of the teeming masses before I retreat once again to my mountain hideaway. The laughter of man and the laughter of the Gods will be indistinguishable before my fire, and the silver giggles of giddy angels shall echo in the still of the following night--night that holds the promise of eternity.
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.
Dale Evans Rogers
Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas.
George F. McDougall
Best of all, Christmas means a spirit of love, a time when the love of God and the love of our fellow men should prevail over all hatred and bitterness, a time when our thoughts and deeds and the spirit of our lives manifest the presence of God.
Author unknown, attributed to a 7-year-old named Bobby
Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.
"This is the message of Christmas: We are never alone."
Let us pray: Jesus, thank you for the love. Bless the remaining hours of this holy day celebration. Lend us power to see the potential of the coming year with enthusiastic hope. Wait for us while we reach for your arms, and save for us, as the wrapping paper flies, an angel kiss. Amen.