On Christmas Day, Thursday, December 25, 2008, Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed the congregation at the Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. What follows is a lightly edited transcription of that lecture.
Merry Christmas everybody, and it is a merry Christmas. This holiday season I, like a lot of other people, have been affected by this financial downturn. I lost quite a bit of money in my investments. The Community Miracles Center is also going through a little financial crunch. I made an agreement with all the people that I usually buy gifts for, no gifts this year. I was cutting myself some slack. I was cutting myself some financial slack, and I was also cutting myself the slack of all the time, effort, and energy it takes to get gifts. This recession has been a big deal and everyone I proposed this too was very willing to do it because they have also been effected by the recession.
I was driving around San Francisco last night in some of the areas where people usually decorate their homes a lot, just so I could see the beautiful homes. While there were still some homes decorated, I could definitely see that not as many were decorated this year, and the ones that were decorated were not decorated as elaborately. Again I thought, ‚"It must be the recession.‚" It's the financial downturn that we are taking. In essence, the recession is the Grinch that stole Christmas this year. The recession seems to be taking it away.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas! was a Dr. Seuss book that he, of course, illustrated. That was a big thing with Dr. Seuss books. He both wrote and illustrated them. The book first came out in 1957. I was five years old. I don't know if I ever read the book but I definitely remember the animated television movie that premiered in 1966 when I was 14 years old. I believe I saw that very first, How The Grinch Stole Christmas! broadcast in 1966 and, of course, they have rebroadcasted it every year since. That's the version of The Grinch that I always remember. I didn't see the Jim Carrey movie that came out a few years ago. To remind you, the Grinch was a miserable creature who lived on a hill outside of Whoville. He was very upset because the Whos, who lived in Whoville, always got very excited around Christmas. They decorated everything, gave gifts, and sang. They were full of good cheer and they sang of love. This was all very abhorrent to the Grinch so he decided to steal Christmas. He went into Whoville disguised as Santa Claus, but he was an ‚"anti-Santa Claus‚" because he went down the chimneys empty handed and then took all the gifts and decorations away with him. That‚'s how the Grinch stole Christmas. He stole it from the Whos.
There's always been a debate around the question, ‚"Are the Whos, who live in Whoville who the Grinch stole Christmas from the same Whos that the elephant Horton heard on a speck of dust in Horton Hears A Who! an earlier Dr. Seuss book? We can discuss that at another time because it is one of the great existential questions of life. (laughter ‚"Who cares?" from the audience.) Many people who study Dr. Seuss care. They want to know if they are the same Whos.
This morning I got up; it was 5:30 in the morning. I had a lot to do today. It was before dawn. It was still dark out. As I drove here a little later, it was still dark out. I was thinking about what I was going to preach today. I had a general idea but I had to get a little clearer about it. I was thinking about the recession and no gifts. Then I remembered the great A Course In Miracles line that was in the reading today.
"Let no despair darken the joy of Christmas, for the time of Christ is meaningless apart from joy. Let us join in celebrating peace by demanding no sacrifice of anyone, for so will you offer me the love I offer you. What can be more joyous than to perceive we are deprived of nothing? Such is the message of the time of Christ‚" (Tx.Or.15.108)
That's the Christmas message. That's the Christ time message. Let no despair darken this time, this day, this season.
In traditional Christian circles you hear, ‚"He's the reason for the season" a lot. They are talking about Jesus. Usually Christmas is tied up with the birth of Jesus. As you can see from the passage that I just read, there's no mention of Jesus. The passage talks about the time of Christ. We who study A Course In Miracles know that "Christ" is not Jesus' last name. The Christ is the perfected being, entity, spirit that we all have. The reason for the season is celebrating the time of Christ, not Jesus' birth. Christ is an ancient term and it dates back before the time of Jesus. "Christ‚" means to be christened, or to be anointed, and that actually means to be rubbed with oil. That's what it means when we say that somebody is Christed, or anointed. It means he's rubbed with oil.
We loose the significance of this in the modern age, but back in antiquity oil was very precious, and it was considered the living essence of things. One had to go through elaborate processes to extract oil from plants and animals. When you then had it, oil was a precious fluid that you could burn for light and that you could cook with. Oil was one of the most precious commodities that they had. Again, it was considered the living essence of things. To be rubbed with this valuable, precious fluid‚ the living essence of things‚ was a great honor. To be christened meant to be rubbed with oil, to be blessed with the essence of life.
That is what this season is about. It's about being blessed with the essence of life, with the most valuable. I began to think about what was the blessed part of myself. Where was the blessed part of myself? When did I feel the blessed part of myself?
A couple of months ago I talked here about going through a difficult time. I talked about going through a period when I had heightened anxiety and difficulty sleeping. That has passed now, I am grateful to say. I spoke of that in my sermon ‚"Using The Course In Difficult Times." Times don‚'t seem as difficult now, so I began to think, "When is a time, recently, when I felt peaceful and Christ like?" This is what came to mind. Since I have been working to cut down my anxiety level, I've been giving myself a little work break, and I've been going home more. I've been leaving work earlier. A couple of nights ago I was at my home. I was relaxing; I had plenty of time. I made dinner for myself, which is actually something I don't do very often. I was sitting there in my room with my T.V. table, and I was eating some fried eggs, drinking a glass of wine, and watching the news on MSNBC. I was simply feeling very, very peaceful. I had that sense that all was right with the world. That is a great sense to get when you are watching the news. The news doesn't usually present what is all right with the world, but somehow to me, at that moment, it truly did feel that all was right with the world. Somehow I knew that all the things I was watching were working together for the greater good. I was very content in that moment. I felt the Christ nature within me at that moment. The truth is there is a lot of abundance going on both in my life and with the Community Miracles Center. We have 95 Supporting Members. That's abundant; that's incredible. We‚'re actually approaching our goal of 100 Supporting Members. That's amazing. Even during this recession we keep getting new members. It‚'s great.
I am happy to say my new book, After Enlightenment, has been picked up by the major wholesaler New Leaf Distributing this past week. Now my book will be available through one of the major wholesalers of New Age, spiritual literature in this country, and in Great Britain. Bookstores will be able to buy it through their normal channels. This really opens us up to getting the book into major bookstores which is a great thing. The Miracle Distribution Center, a premier A Course In Miracles organization in Southern California, has agreed to carry the book, so that‚'s another great thing. I have learned all the intricacies of book publishing that I thought I could never really master. I want to endorse myself and the Community Miracles Center for that. I learned about International Standard Book Numbers, ISBN numbers. I learned about the Library of Congress Control Number that the book has to have. I learned about scannable bar codes, how to generate them and how to get them on the cover of your book. I learned about PCIPs which are the data blocks that appear on the copyright page of a book. I have now officially registered the copyright of the book with the USA Copyright office. These were all abilities that I had to develop. I had my doubts about my ability to develop them or, more accurately, if I had the time to develop them‚ but I did it! I remember what A Course In Miracles says, "Abilities must be developed ... In an impossible situation, you can develop your abilities to the point where they can get you out of it. You have a Guide to how to develop them, but you have no commander except yourself." (Tx.Or.Ed.6.53) This is really true. We may think that the situation is impossible. The impossible situation, for me, was that I didn't have time to do all these things. However somehow, since I was the commander of myself, I mustered up the energy and I moved through. I found the time and I did develop the required abilities.
Our country, right now, is in what seems to be several impossible situations, but we can develop the abilities that we need to get through these impossible situations. We have a President elect who believes that we will develop these abilities. I have faith that we, as a country, are going to be able to do this. We will, because we will put ourselves in the situation and move through. I do have faith in people. I do have faith in the country, and I do have faith in our President elect.
As I was sitting in my home a few days ago: eating my fried eggs, watching the news, drinking my wine, feeling that all was right with the world, that all things were working together for good‚ I was peaceful. I was home alone and quiet. However, I also remember a teaching in A Course In Miracles that we need to feel our Christ nature within us not just when we are peaceful. In fact it is easy to feel it when we are peaceful. It isn't any great accomplishment to feel it when we are peaceful. We need to feel the Christ nature within us when we have issues, when we have problems, when we are anxious. The Course says‚"It will be necessary, however, that you learn to require no special settings in which to apply what you have learned. You will need it most in situations which appear to be upsetting, rather than in those which already seem to be calm and quiet." (Wk.Or.Ed.50.8) We need an awareness of our Christ nature more in those times of anxiety, in those times of upset, than we do in the times when we are quiet. Actually, the progress that we make to stay centered in those times that are challenging‚ any little move towards our quiet center, any little move towards the peace‚ is us expressing our Christ nature. Perhaps we are always the Christ. Perhaps we are always to remember that we are the Christ even in our most tense moments. The Course says,"... you cannot distinguish between advance and retreat. Some of your greatest advances you have judged as failures, and some of your deepest retreats you have evaluated as success." (Tx.Or.Ed.18.41)
My tendency is to think that the moment when I was home alone, quiet, eating, drinking a glass wine, watching the news, and feeling peaceful‚ that was a great moment for me. In truth, maybe the greater moment is when I was truly challenged a few months ago and was doing my best just to hold it together and to hold on to any little scrap of peace. Maybe I was being more the Christ in those moments. Those were the more challenging ones. We can not judge these things anyhow. We never truly know how well we are doing. The point is always just to do the best that we can, wherever we are at, and offer it all up to the Holy Spirit in trust. We can't judge.
I frequently think about this and I have talked about this too. What if Jesus went though all of these things as well? What if Jesus was truly just like us? Maybe he wasn't any different from us. Maybe he also felt that the times he was most like the Christ was when he was sitting alone in his tent, looking out at the fire, eating a little pita bread and humus. He was Middle Eastern, that's probably what they were eating. Maybe he had to sometimes get up really early, before the sun rose, and think about what he was going to preach that day. What if he was just like all of us?
I sometimes get criticism when I talk like this because people like to hold Jesus up on a pedestal. I tend not to. I tend to think he was just like us. Some people perceive that I am trying to bring Jesus down to our level. Actually, what I think is that I am trying to correctly perceive and bring myself up to his level. Probably, it is simple the recognition that we are both at the same level regardless. It think A Course In Miracles spends a lot of time teaching us that we and Jesus are at the same level. Many of us are still waiting for this big change to happen, when we're enlightened. As I talked about a lot in my book, perhaps we are already enlightened and there isn't any big change that is going to happen. Before enlightenment, eat fried eggs, watch the news on MSNBC. After enlightenment, eat fried eggs, watch the news on MSNBC. Nothing really changes. It's a perspective; it's a recognition. Before enlightenment, eat humus with pita, and watch the fire. After enlightenment, eat humus with pita, and watch the fire. It's the recognition that we are already enlightened. We're already the Christ. The Course tells us this, "Enlightenment is but a recognition, not a change at all." (Wk.Or.Ed.188) Enlightenment is something that we recognize. Nothing is going to change about us and our lives. We need to stop trying to be something else. We need to realize that we are already Christed and that this is not dependent on anything that is going on externally.
The Grinch tried very hard to steal Christmas. He actually did a great job of stealing all the decorations and all the gifts, but then to his amazement Christmas arrived on schedule in Whoville and none of the Whos seemed upset about the fact that the decorations and the gifts weren't there. The Whos simply went about celebrating Christmas and singing their hymns, regardless. To the Grinch's amazement, Christmas had nothing to do with the externals. I think there is a wonderful message for us all in that. This recession is effecting us, but it's okay. It doesn't have anything to do with who we truly are, and it doesn't have anything to do with the true energy of this day and what this season is all about.
This morning, as I drove down to the Community Miracles Center, while it was still dark, and while I was thinking about my Christmas talk, I felt like the Whos. Christmas had still come, regardless. Regardless of the fact that there would be no presents for me this year, I still really felt in the Christmas spirit. I still felt that the Christ was definitely there within me. Christmas had come. I felt the Christed spirit. Our enlightenment is already here. We don't need to be any different than we are. I love that quotation about enlightenment. Enlightenment is but a recognition. It is not a change of any kind. We need to recognize that we are always the Christ.
We need to cut ourselves some slack. We need to not be the Grinch who steals our own Christmas. It's going to come anyway if we just recognize what it is.
Today is the day that we celebrate the birth of the Christ. The true reason why it is celebrated on this day, December 25, is because in antiquity this was the first day they could actually measure that there was a little bit more light and sunshine in the sky. Daylight got just measurable longer on December 25th. They knew that light was returning in the sky. This was a day that was celebrated as a festival to the sun God, Mithras. That is what the history of this day is. It has always been a day celebrating the light. As we talked about last Sunday, it was much later that Christians associated the birth of Jesus to this day. Christians knew, at that time, that Jesus was not born anywhere near December 25th, but they needed a designated day and this was a good one because there was already a festival being celebrated on this day. There were many political reasons why this day was finally chosen, and it's all fine.
It's important to remember this history and to realize that it was arbitrary to associate Jesus‚ birth with this day. The picking of this day had nothing to do with Jesus‚ birth. It had to do with the birth of light in the sky. That's the great message. That's something that I truly want to take in to myself. The Christed nature, the true nature of light, the nature of peace, the nature of joy, is born again this day. On this day we are anointed, rubbed with the living essence of life. The Christ is born again in us this day. It‚s not Jesus' birth day that we celebrate today. It's our birthday that we celebrate today. It's our birth of the Christ spirit within us. So happy birthday everyone and Merry Christmas to you all. ♥
c/o Community Miracles Center
2269 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
This article appeared in the December 2008 (Vol. 22 No.10) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.