JUMP FOR JOY & CANDLE LIGHTING
This is the third Sunday in Advent. So, this week we center on Love. The affirmation is: "I remember to let love open my heart and inspire my life."
ADVENT - LOVE
So what is Love? It says in 1 Corinthians 13:4-6: "Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth."a
Then it says in Mark 12:30-31: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." There is no other commandment greater than this.b
So let's do today's affirmation. "I remember to let love open my heart and inspire my life."
JUMP FOR JOY
"Joy to the World" is a phrase we hear a lot this time of year. But how many people are truly feeling it? I mean come on.
This time of year is emotionally difficult on many people and then with all of the natural disasters, political shenanigans and human rights violations that have occurred this year -- how can there possibly be ANY joy right now?!
And then something comes along to remind us. For me, it is this book The Book of Joy, which is a recording of and commentary about a week where His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu met in India, to celebrate his Holiness' 80th birthday and to dialog about the idea of joy.
The back cover the book reads: "Nobel peace prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have survived more than fifty years of exile and the soul-crushing violence of oppression. Despite their hardships - or, as they would say, because of them - they are two of the most joyful people on the planet. . . . By the end of a week filled with laughter and punctuated with tears, these two global heroes had stared into the abyss and despair of our times and revealed how to live a life brimming with joy."c
Perhaps, just perhaps, there is something we can gain from their wisdom!
I want to begin our time together this morning with a passage from the book. These are the words of the Dalai Lama: "One great question underlies our existence. What is the purpose of life? After much consideration, I believe the purpose of life is [pause] to find happiness. It does not matter whether one is a Buddhist like me, or a Christian like the Archbishop, or any other religion, or no religion at all. From the moment of birth, every human being wants to discover happiness . . . No differences in our culture or our education or our religion affect this. From the very core of our being, we simply desire joy and contentment. But so often these feelings are fleeting and hard to find, like a butterfly that lands on us and then flutters away. The ultimate source of happiness is within us. Not money, not power, not status. . . . Outward attainment will not bring real inner joyfulness. We must look inside. Sadly many of the things that undermine our joy and happiness we create ourselves. Often it comes from the negative tendencies of the mind, emotional reactivity, or from our inability to appreciate and utilize the resources that exist within us. The suffering from natural disasters we cannot control, but the suffering from our daily disasters we can. We create most of our suffering, so it should be logical that we also have the ability to create more joy. It simply depends on the attitudes, the perspectives and the reactions we bring to situations and to our relationships with other people. When it comes to personal happiness, there is a lot that we as individuals can do."d
Wow. Wow. Wow! He sounds like a Unity student, doesn't he?
So, this morning, I want to take three ideas from this quote and dig into them a bit. And they are:
The ultimate source of happiness/joy is within us.
We so often undermine our own joy and happiness.
Conversely, we can create joy and happiness.
So, let's start digging.
THE ULTIMATE SOURCE OF HAPPINESS/JOY IS WITHIN US
1. The ultimate source of happiness/joy is within us.
Now, I must point out in that statement of His Holiness, the word "source" is not capitalized, but I would because that gets to the spiritual Truth of things. The ultimate Source (capital S) of our happiness, of our joy, is inside of us.
In the Science of Mind, Holmes suggests that we say to ourselves: "I am joy, peace and happiness. I am the spirit of joy within me . . . I radiate Life; I am Life. There is One Life and that Life is my Life now."e
Ernest cautions us that it is not enough to say: "There is One Life and that Life is God," but we must make our own personal connection with our oneness by completing the statement with: "That Life is my life now."
So, we are not becoming this Life, but are now in and of this Life.
We are not becoming Joy, but are now in and of this Joy.
So the Dalai Lama is absolutely in alignment with our belief when he wrote that the Source of Joy is within, because the Source of Joy is the One Life that is our Life now. And that is absolutely in alignment with our previous discussion of purpose. Our purpose is to express Source at the highest way we can . . . which is the Source of Joy . . . . therefore, our purpose is to express Joy!
So, say with me please:
"I am joy, peace and happiness. . . . I am the spirit of joy within me . . . I radiate Life; . . . I am Life . . . There is One Life . . . and that Life is my Life now.'
This is our spiritual truth and if we got it, really got it, then boom, it's done. But we don't and as the Dalai Lama said in the second point I want to explore this morning:
WE SO OFTEN UNDERMINE OUR JOY AND HAPPINESS
2. We so often undermine our joy and happiness
Specifically, he said: "Sadly many of the things that undermine our joy and happiness we create ourselves. Often it comes from the negative tendencies of the mind, emotional reactivity, or from our inability to appreciate and utilize the resources that exist within us."f
So, I was prayerfully considering where to go with this this morning because there are lots of ways to take this, but then I remembered more of the work of Brene Brown in Daring Greatly.
She actually has a lot to say about how we push away our joy with our negative tendencies of the mind, our emotional reactivity, and from our inability to appreciate what exists.
She calls it: "foreboding joy -- or the paradoxical dread that clamps down around momentary joyfulness."g
Here's how it goes. Tell me if you recognize this.
* You are realizing how much you love your partner, and then you are suddenly overwhelmed with fear that your partner will leave you; or
* You are feeling how good life is right now and then you envision your life taking a really wrong turn down a dark alley - you know, like it's done before; or
* You are really loving your job, but suddenly are paralyzed by the realization that in this economy, it won't be too long before you get downsized from it; or
* The doctor tells you your cancer went into remission and after a moment of relief, a wave floods over you that the doctor is wrong and the cancer is still there; or
* You're standing over your baby's crib feeling overwhelmed with love and then visions of something terrible happening to her fill your mind.
Now, I know in a church that is based on the idea that since we are expressions of the Infinite Creator, we are creative beings; thus, what we think and feel is what we create in our lives, we might not want to admit that we do any of that . . .
. . . but a lot of us do things like that! At least that's what the research shows we, as human beings, do - a lot of us do!
Does that ring true for anyone you know? So why on earth are we doing it?
The answer is pretty straightforward according to Brown: Deep, sweet joy bubbling up in us makes us very vulnerable to being hurt should it go away, so we slap on foreboding and close it down. Because we don't want to be hurt, we literally practice being devastated or disappointment so that when the real thing happens, it won't hurt so much.
A man in his early sixties in Brown's study said this: "I used to think the best way to go through life was to expect the worst. That way, if it happened, you were prepared. Then I was in a car accident and my wife was killed. Needless to say, expecting the worst didn't prepare me at all. And worse, I still grieve for all of those wonderful moments my wife and I shared that I didn't fully enjoy. My commitment to her memory is to fully enjoy every moment now. I just wish she was here now that I know how to do that."h
So how do we do that? Well, that's our final idea from the Dalai Lama's original quote for us to look at this morning.
CONVERSELY, WE CAN CREATE JOY AND HAPPINESS
3. Conversely, we can create joy and happiness
Remember, he said:
"We create most of our suffering, so it should be logical that we also have the ability to create more joy. It simply depends on the attitudes, the perspectives and the reactions we bring to situations and to our relationships with other people."
According to Brene Brown's research, we all have this foreboding joy phenomenon going on, but those who live joy-filled lives, use it as a reminder rather than a warning shot. They opt to take a different attitude, perspective and reaction.
For them, the shudder of vulnerability that accompanies joy is an invitation to practice a powerful spiritual practice called gratitude, to acknowledge how truly grateful they are for the person, the beauty, the connection, or simply the moment before them.
Gratitude, therefore, emerged from the data as the antidote to foreboding joy. In fact, every participant in Brown's study who spoke about the ability to stay open to joy also talked about the importance of practicing gratitude.
Brown learned most about gratitude practices and the relationship they have to joy from men and women who had experienced some of the most profound losses or survived the greatest traumas.
These included parents whose children had died, family members with terminally ill loved ones and genocide and trauma survivors. Their unified wisdom was this: "Be grateful for what you have. Don't take what you have for granted - celebrate it. Don't apologize for what you have. Be grateful for it and share your gratitude with others. When you honor what you have, you're honoring what I've lost."i
That, my friend, leads us to a question.
What would your life look like today, tomorrow, this month, next year, if you knew that you are here to experience greater and greater and even greater joy?
TWELVE LIGHTS OF BETHLEHEM CANDLELIGHTING SERVICE
So, let's move into our candle lighting ceremony.
1 Baby Jesus - Life (red candle)
Candle Lighter: The red candle represents Life, which we light for the baby Jesus.
Narrator: Jesus was like a candle in a dark world. When we think of Christmas, all thoughts flow toward his birth. Light from light, Jesus demonstrates the universal Divine Presence, and through him, we see the image of God in everyone.
2 Mary - Faith (dark blue candle)
Candle Lighter: This candle represents Faith, which we light for Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Narrator: According to the Gospel of Luke, when confronted by the Divine commission to give birth to and nurture the Christ child, this ordinary young woman responded with extraordinary words of trusting faith: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name" (Luke 1:46-49).
3 Joseph - Understanding (gold candle)
Candle Lighter: This candle represents the golden light of Understanding, which we light for Joseph, the father of Jesus and husband to Mary.
Narrator: With an understanding heart, Joseph accepted his role in the amazing circumstances we celebrate this season. The gospels report that, after the angel choirs had adjourned to heaven and the Wise Men returned to their far-off lands, it was Joseph who remained as father and guardian of a child whose life would change the world. In quiet ways, by acts of unsung courage, he demonstrated a keen understanding of the dangers and joys of life, and always acted from the highest principles for the greatest good.
4 Bethlehem - Power (purple candle)
Candle Lighter: This candle represents Power, which we light for the little town of Bethlehem.
Narrator: Purple is the ancient color of kings and emperors. Prophets had foretold that the Promised One would come from Bethlehem, the place where the powerful King David had been born. Yet the power Bethlehem represents is far greater than the might of armies. Bethlehem means "house of bread" in Hebrew, and one day the child born that night would challenge all people to feed the hungry, and clothe the needy, and comfort the afflicted. By the words of power he brought, Jesus taught humankind to affirm the Power and Presence of God in all circumstances. The power of that affirmation will heal the sick, lift the poor out of poverty, and transform the world into a commonwealth of peace.
5 Shepherds - Love (pink candle)
Candle Lighter: This candle represents Love, which we light for the shepherds.
Narrator: These were simple folk, not kings in their palaces, yet the Gospel of Luke says the birth of the Christ child was announced to them as "good news of great joy for all the people" (Luke 2:10). They responded with eagerness, and when they knelt before the manger, their hearts were filled with divine Love.
6 Prophets and Herald Angels - Zeal (orange candle)
Candle Lighter: This candle represents Zeal, which we light for Prophets and Herald Angels.
Narrator: The Prophet Isaiah had written: "For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace ... The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this" (Isaiah 9:6-7). Luke reports that angelic voices rang out that dark night, announcing the holy birth. "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!'" (Luke 2:13). Jesus would tell the people that God favors everyone. Isaiah the prophet and the Herald Angels conspired to give us a vision of heaven and earth united by the power of Zeal.
7 The Manger - Order (dark green)
Candle Lighter: This dark green candle represents Divine Order, which we light in memory of the Manger.
Narrator: Jesus has been called "King of kings" and "Lord of lords." Yet, when it was time for him to be born, his desperate parents converted an animal food trough into a makeshift cradle. As Luke writes, she "wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7). This simple action shows God working through all circumstances. Looking at the manger in the Christmas crèche offers a visual symbol of the balance and harmony flowing through the Universe. Even when circumstances appear desperate, we can access that flow of good through exercising our trust in Divine Order.
8 Wise Men - Wisdom (yellow candle)
Candle Lighter: This yellow candle represents the flame of Wisdom, which we light for the Wise Men.
Narrator: Many people saw the star, but the Gospel of Matthew says only the Wise Men from the East chose to act on their vision. The power of Wisdom is the guiding light that gives us the right decision when we trust the Christ within. With this candle we remember the good judgment shown by wise men and wise women throughout the ages who have found the way to their inner Christ.
9 The Star of Bethlehem - Imagination (light blue candle)
Candle Lighter: This candle represents Imagination, which we light in memory of the Star which led the Magi to Bethlehem.
Narrator: The Gospel of Matthew says Wise Men followed that star until it came to rest over Bethlehem, where they found the Christ. The star represents the ability to create new ideas and set them in motion. It is the power to see through appearances to the inner, eternal Truth of every circumstance. With the eyes of Imagination, the Magi found their Christ by following a star; we can use our power of Imagination to discover the Christ within everyone.
10 Gold - Strength (light green candle)
Candle Lighter: This candle represents Strength, which we light in memory of the gift of gold.
Narrator: The first gift the Magi gave the baby Jesus was gold, which represents the kingly nature of Jesus, his prosperity consciousness, and his ability to perform all necessary tasks. It is appropriate that the color of monetary currency today is often light green, like this candle. Spiritual Strength is the true gold of existence, the energy of God flowing through us. Gold also symbolizes the gifts of God, which strengthen us during times of difficulty and give us the ability to share our time, talent, and treasure with others.
11 Frankincense - Will (silver candle)
Candle Lighter: This silver candle represents Will, which we light in memory of the gift of frankincense.
Narrator: Because frankincense was an incense of the temple, it represents the divine nature of Jesus, which is the Christ that dwells within everyone. To allow more and more of the Christ to express through us takes an act of Will, the willingness to name and claim our divine heritage.
12 Myrrh - Renunciation or Elimination (russet candle)
Candle Lighter: This russet brown candle represents Renunciation, which we light in memory of the gift of myrrh.
Narrator: This candle points to the human nature of Jesus. In biblical times, myrrh was a perfume used to prepare bodies for burial. It represents the power to let go and let God, to recognize we are in good hands when we trust God. Jesus, who was born in a manger, would die on a cross. Yet his teachings have changed billions of lives for the better. If he was able to let go and let God, so can we. As we celebrate the birth of the Christ child this night, we release any thoughts of lack or limitation and turn our lives over to God's guidance, knowing in every circumstance God is within us, we are in God, and all is well.
May there always be room in your heart
for divinity to find a birthing place.
May you be holy as the angels were,
faithful as the shepherds were,
humble as the cattle were,
wise as the Wise Men were.
May you have the compassion Mary had
and the understanding Joseph had,
and may the blessing of the Christ child be yours,
not because of His birthnight long ago,
but because His love is born in you today!
a1 Corinthians 13:4-6
cThe Book of Joy, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu
dThe Book of Joy, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu pg 19
ep. 292 of the Science of Mind, Holmes
fThe Book of Joy, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu pg 20
gBrene Brown Daring Greatly
hBrene Brown Daring Greatly
iBrene Brown Daring Greatly