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Sunday Message for December 17, 2023

BURNING BOWL ADVENT 3RD SUNDAY -LOVE

Today is the third Sunday of Advent. This is a very special and holy time of the year. Let our invocation this week be, "In order to be my most loving self, I nurture this power every day in the stillness of prayer. As I commune with God, I relax, open my heart to love, and embrace the intention to live in love moment by moment."

Advent represents the approach of Christ's birth and fulfillment of the prophecies about that event. So, let's light the advent candles.

(Light the first candle.) I light this candle to remind us that we must prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child.

This is the candle of Faith. With the eye of faith, I see God in all. As we look at the light of this candle we celebrate our active faith in the power of God, the justice of God, the Truth of God that is continually at work in our minds and hearts.

(Light the second candle.) This is the candle of Peace. Peace is like a light shining in a dark place. As we look at this candle, we celebrate the peace we find in Jesus Christ.

(Light the third candle.) I light this candle on the third Sunday in Advent to signify Love. Love is like a candle shining in a dark place. As we look at the light of this candle, we celebrate the love we have in Christ.

Today we light the Third Candle of Advent, the Candle of Love. In their old age God gave to Zechariah and Elisabeth a son called John. John spoke to the people bravely in the desert denying his own comforts and prepared to die for what he believed. John taught that we should share what we have with others, treat each other kindly and show God's love. He did this because he cared for people and wanted them to repent and find God's forgiveness.

PRAYER: Lord God, Your witness, John the Baptist, grew up strong in spirit and prepared people for the coming of the Lord. He loved your people and baptized them in the River Jordan to wash away their sins. Help us to have the same love that we would be witnesses to him and spread the good news of your love. As Christmas draws closer day by day, help us to be ready to welcome him. Amen

As you enter this advent week of love, remember that Jesus showed us how to love and how to treat others as we wish to be treated. What a wonderful opportunity we have during this Christmas season to demonstrate the power of divine love through our thoughts, words, and actions. Amen

(Proverbs 20:27) "The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord, searching every inmost part."a

So let's look at our inmost parts with our Burning Bowl service. This is a wonderful ritual of release, where we let go of old patterns, old attitudes that no longer serve us and replace them with positive, uplifting ones that free us. And we do this by saying good-bye to the year 2023 and embracing and welcoming 2024. James Thurber said, "Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness." Awareness is the key. And we do that by staying present. The present holds the power of now.

A teacher once brought a sack of potatoes to school. Then she told each student to take one potato for each person they have not forgiven and carve the name of the person on the potato and put it in their sack. Some of the sacks were quite heavy. They had to take the sacks everywhere with them. This illustration was to show her students what it is like to carry around that extra burden with them everywhere they went.

Think about it. How big is your sack of potatoes?

Today is about letting go of those burdens that we are carrying around with us. One of Charles Fillmore's most powerful teachings is that, "We must do a mental house cleaning." So, we are going to clear out any thoughts or beliefs that are no longer serving us. Some of those things may be Negative thoughts - thoughts about ourselves or others that are not for our highest good.

Unforgiveness - is there anyone you have not completely forgiven - including yourself? Put a potato in your sack for each of these people. Beliefs - any beliefs that are not based in truth such as prejudice and hate. Belief that illness or disease cannot be overcome. Put another potato in your sack for each of these. Guilt - are you holding in feelings of guilt about something that has happened in the past? Add another potato. Fear is very detrimental. It holds us back from reaching our full potential. Drop fear potatoes into your sack. Attachments or addictions - any attachment to people or things that causes discord in our lives. All of these thoughts and behaviors hold us back from our highest good. If you have these drop more potatoes into your sack.

Now think about how the weight of your sack has affected you throughout the years. How long have you been carrying this weight? That is what we are here to rid ourselves of today. In doing this I invite you to become aware that you are supported and enfolded in God's love. I invite you to let go and let God; to trust that you are being supported and strengthened in this love. It says in (Ezekiel 36:26) "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you."b

So just get comfortable where you are sitting. Put that potato sack down. Have a pencil and the paper with the fire on it available. Relax and feel the pew supporting your body, the way God's love supports you.

Father, Mother, God let us accept responsibility for our lives, for our thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions. Help us to now use our will to choose what we will take with us into the New Year and what we will release. We now turn over to Spirit, our negative thoughts, fears, beliefs, and anything else keeping us from our good. Through the power of Jesus Christ, we now release and let it all go. We give thanks and bless this ritual that we are about to perform.

Now move your focus down to the area of your heart, and visualize a pure white-golden light glowing there, becoming brighter and brighter - radiating outward. You are becoming a being of pure light and love - pure Spirit - feel yourself floating upward and over the countryside - a summer meadow, green and lush. You see a child playing down there, sitting amongst a field of daises. As you gaze lovingly at the child, you realize it is your inner child, that little being that lives within you. There is a beautiful sack beside the child, and you know it is your sack of life. Inside the sack are all of the things you have learned along the way. Ask your inner child to open the sack and see if there are any thoughts, hurts, or experiences that are left in the sack from childhood that no longer serve your inner child. Ask the child if he or she is willing to pull the things from the sack and release them to love. Assure your inner child that the sack will be much lighter when they are able to release the things that bring hurt to your heart ... habits that you developed during this stage that are not useful to you now. Your child says yes. Gently take the things from her or him and release them in a bubble of pure light as you write them on your paper...

Now, your child turns and hands the sack to a youth leaning against a big, beautiful oak tree, watching the bubbles of a dancing brook... The sack has grown larger throughout the years of living, of learning, of experiencing. You realize this youth is your inner adolescent, and you ask him or her to open the sack and remove any hurts or habits from that stage in your life that are blocking your highest good. Let your inner self gently place these memories into a bubble of light and place them into the brook to be washed away as you write them down.

Now your adolescent carries your sack to where you are, standing on a mountain where you have full view of all the experiences of your life. The sack has again grown much larger. Invite your higher self to take hold of the sack and open it. Are there any hurts... fears... attitudes... beliefs... feelings of shame or guilt... unhealthy habits... that are left in the sack from any state of your life that you are willing now to release? Assure yourself that the load will be much lighter when people and old hurts are forgiven, when habits are let go, when attitudes and beliefs are transformed, when fears are brought into the light. As your Inner Self shuffles through the bag, you notice a white bird land beside you. This bird is the symbol of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Whole Spirit of God. You bring out the hurts and fears and feelings and release them to the white bird, to carry them to the light as you write them on the paper...

Let the spirit of God work in you. Know that it is not by might, nor by power, but by spirit, active in you, that transformation happens. Give yourself a silent blessing for being open and receptive enough to become aware of that which is in need of transformation. (Psalms 51:10) "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me."c

Now silently, meditatively, please come forward row by row, to the Christ candle, to the flame, representing the cleansing action of fire. Touch your paper to the candle to start it burning, and then place it in the bowl. As you release the paper, release from your mind everything that you've written on that paper, knowing that the Living Spirit of Truth is healing and transforming everything right now. Say to yourself something like, "This is no longer a part of my life. The forgiving love of God in the Truth of Jesus Christ now makes me free." Then silently come back to your seat and remain in quiet meditation until everyone is finished.

LETTER OF THANKS TO GOD
In a few minutes, we're going to experience a meditation to visualize the good you wish to see manifest in your life over the next twelve months - to visualize how your heaven on earth would look.

There are two things that keep us from being in heaven - first that we don't believe it's possible, and second, that we don't think we deserve it. This meditation will be a step in overcoming that. For a few minutes, you need to let go of all belief in limitations of time, money, ability, situation, whatever you think is keeping your good from you. You're going to write a letter to God but dated December 31, 2024. In it, you're going to thank God for all the wonderful experiences you've had the past year - not the year 2023, which you've just completed; but the year 2024, which lies before you.

I've heard it said that thanking someone for something they've done is politeness, but thanking God for something in advance is faith. Jesus said, (Mark 11:24) "So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."d So that's what we're going to do right now. We are going to put emotion into our belief.

Before we start our meditation, please address the envelope to yourself. Then, take the paper out of the envelope and write "Dear ..." whatever name you use for God, for that Spirit within you, for the Creator of the Universe. After the meditation, we'll take 5 minutes to write the letter. In the letter, you will affirm what you want to experience as if it has already happened; that it's in your life now; not that it will come about or that you're going to do or have something. God works in the now. And if you're affirming something very specific, be sure to include a loophole for Spirit. Write "this or something better, thank you God," so that you're not putting any limitations on your good.

So, I invite you to close your eyes now, take a few deep breaths, let yourself relax, and return to that quiet, inner place of peace. Rest there, held in the beauty and comfort of the love that you are. In this peaceful place, take a moment to appreciate all that you have given and all that you have received in the past year, the year 2023. Thank yourself for the steps you have taken and the lessons you have learned. Recognize the healing you've accepted and the growth you have allowed. Let this gratitude fill your heart.

Picture yourself back on the mountain. Before you is a gateway, the gateway to your future, fresh and open, full of promise and opportunity. Behind you is everything you've experienced, everything that has happened to you in life, which has brought you to this moment, December 31, 2024. Step through the gateway and greet the new year, 2025, with open arms and a clear heart.

Begin to reflect on the past year in a positive and joy-filled way, seeing the pages of the months turning slowly. Allow the ideas and thoughts of a renewed consciousness to come into your mind. See yourself in the positive, loving light of the One Presence, knowing that your emotional, physical, and spiritual health are unfolding into the wholeness of the Christ-perfection right now... Imagine your life December 2024 brightly shining with love and blessing, laughter and joy, purpose, peace and grace. Know that this is God's will for you. Believe the scriptures when they say, (Matthew 19:26) "for God all things are possible."e

Remember that you are the co-creator of your life - remove all limits and know that the Kingdom of Heaven is now. Imagine your home, the harmony of your relationships, perfect health, a rewarding, fulfilling job, all the time you need, abundance in all areas of your life. Choose to let the Christ see and speak and hear and feel and act through you. This is heaven and it is your choice to live in it. Know that in Truth, you are prosperity, you are love and wisdom. You are guided in right ways, and you are Unlimited.

And now, as Spirit moves you, and remaining in a silent, meditative state, open your eyes and write your letter to God, dated December 31, 2024, thanking Spirit for all the blessings you have received over the past year. Affirm the good that you have received for your life, your church, and your world. When you have finished, fold your letter, place it in the envelope, and seal the envelope. Say silently to yourself, "Thank you, God, that this is now so."

RESPONSIVE READING
It is in releasing the old and accepting and giving thanks for the new that true freedom is ours. In the words of Jesus: (John 11:41-42) "Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me."f

Please join me in the responsive reading found on page 528 of your song book. It is responsive reading #12 "New Beginnings"

I look forward to another year full of joyful surprises from Spirit. I see for each one of you, prosperity in all areas of your lives; and my vision for you is for many blessings, may 2024 be the year when all of your inner dreams manifest in the outer realm. God bless you and have a happy New Year.



aProverbs 20:27
bEzekiel 36:26
cPsalms 51:10
dMark 11:24
eMark 11:24
fJohn 11:41-42



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