On December 24, 2017, Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed those attending the Community Miracles Center's Sunday Gathering in San Francisco, California. Below is a lightly edited transcription of this talk.
Hello again everybody! (Yay!) Here it is, Christmas Eve Day. We are so glad you are all joining us! We are happy that you are here. Thank you all who are joining us by watching this video on YouTube. We are so excited that you decided to click on our YouTube videos. Please watch all of our YouTube videos. We have one every week from the Sunday Gathering and they are lovingly prepared by Rev. Kelly Hallock.
So it is Christmas time, holiday time. Of course I have been thinking of the holidays. I was going about my week and being challenged – which I am all the time. However maybe I, and some of us, feel especially more challenged over the holidays. Then I was just able to sink in and focus on some of the truths from A Course in Miracles and some key words, not only from A Course in Miracles but from my life as well. First of all, I was thinking of all the memories that I have about Christmas.
When you think about these memories you have from Christmas, and you have a body that is 65 years old, then you have a lot of memories. Sometimes they are a blur, but you have a lot of memories from the holidays. The memories fill you with different feelings. Sometimes those feelings are really joyful, and sometimes they are just sad. I was thinking about all of that, and I want to share a few memories with you that I have from Christmas.
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When I was a young lad, a little Italian boy growing up in my Italian family in upstate New York, every Christmas Eve – and today is Christmas Eve day – my family would go see my aunts and uncle on my father's side of the family. My father came from a family with four children. He was the only one who married. His two sisters and his brother lived in the same family home for all of their lives, their whole lives. They never lived any other place but that one home. Think about that, especially those of us who move around a lot. They never lived any other place but that one home. We would go see them every Christmas Eve, my two aunts and my uncle. I just want to make it clear this wasn't some interesting "ménage à troi" that they had going on. There were two sisters and a brother.
My Aunt Jenny always made these incredible chocolate cookies. They were just amazing. They were kind of big and dense, and instead of butter she would use olive oil. They would be frosted. I remember them. They were really delicious. I think my sister Sara has the recipe for those. I was thinking that I need to call and talk to my sister Sara. I need to see if I can get the recipe for those. Aunt Jenny's chocolate cookies – I don't know what else to call them.
Also, my family members were not really drinkers. They didn't drink often, except at Christmas time when they allowed themselves to drink a little anisette. Anisette is an anise flavored liqueur, kind of like licorice, and my family really loved their little drink of anisette on Christmas Eve. Though politically incorrect, they would let the little kids have a little glass of anisette. I remember really looking forward, as a seven or eight year old, to going to my Aunt Jenny's house and getting that little drink of anisette. That was the first alcoholic thing I had in my mouth. Of course it was just that one time, once a year. Therefore, in honor of Christmas Eve and my Aunt Jenny, I will have some anisette. I have sambuca which is like a really top shelf anisette. So, I poured myself a little anisette because it's Christmas Eve. (Rev. Tony takes a sip from a glass filled earlier.) Oh it's really good. It's really good.
I wasn't able to get Aunt Jenny's chocolate cookies but these are little round chocolate balls that a friend made for me. They are almost like Aunt Jenny's cookies. Never take a bite of food on stage. (Rev. Tony sneaks a little bite to laughter.) So we taste things. We hear things. We see things.
Rev. Dusa Althea and I, a couple of times this week, drove around the city and went to the places where we know there are these amazing houses that get decorated all up. They get decorated ever year, but sometimes a little bit differently each year. Then we drove around trying to find other houses that were decorated that we never saw before. I think it's just amazing. It almost brought tears to my eyes. There are these people who will spend all kinds of time and money, a lot of time and a lot of money, to do this kind of street art.
It really is street art. A lot of it is just thrown on, and you know the person probably did not sit back and think about it a lot. They just got a lot of lights and stuff and its nothing sophisticated – however some of the lights are sophisticated. Some of them are really elaborate, usually the ones in homes that gay men live in. (laughter) The queens have to do it up.
I was amazed that people would spend this kind of time to create this thing of beauty, and put up all these lights just to make you smile. You look at them and you smile. That people would do something like this for complete strangers is touching. Of course it affects others like their family, and sure their friends are affected by it too, but most of the effect is just for the passersby, and the people driving by. People drive by and smile. That people would spend that amount of time and money to do these beautiful things is amazing to me.
There is this intensity of feeling, and these two words occurred to me. The words are "sublime" and "poignant." I kept thinking of sublime and poignant. So I looked sublime up in the dictionary, and it says that sublime is "of such excellence, grandeur, or beauty, as to inspire great admiration or awe." That is sublime. "Of such excellence, grandeur, or beauty, as to inspire great admiration or awe."
The other word poignant sometimes feels kind of the same, but has actually the opposite meaning. Poignant means, "to invoke a keen sense of sadness or regret."
I think we have both of those things going on with us during the holiday season. I think about Aunt Jenny, my Uncle Guy, and my Aunt Santa. That was the other aunt's name. We used to just call her Aunt Little because she was about 4'-5". I can get poignant over them and my childhood Christmas memories. I can get this keen sense of sadness or regret. They are gone. They have made their transitions along with that innocent time of a little kid with chocolate cookies and a tiny glass of anisette.
We always had roasted chestnuts too. We didn't have an open fire, but they were baked in the oven. We would pull them out and they were really hot when they came out of the oven. You have to feel them with your fingers. They will burn your tongue if they are too hot. So you had to wait and blow on them first. Then you would peel them so you could eat a hot chestnut.
You know all of that stuff, I can get feeling poignant about. I can feel sad and regret that it's not there anymore. But I could easily transmute that feeling of poignancy to the sublime. The transition from the poignant to the sublime is actually very easy to make. It's an intensity that has gotten a little skewed, so just move it. You just move it towards excellence, grandeur and beautiful memories. I'm right there with my Aunts and Uncle, I remember having some anisette like a little kid doing something naughty and fun. (Rev. Tony takes another sip of anisette.) Just like I am feeling really naughty right now here sipping my anisette at a Sunday Gathering. It was grand and beautiful. I think that is the challenge for us at Christmas, to keep everything excellent, grand, and beautiful, regardless of what it is that is challenging us.
We heard some quotations read earlier from A Course In Miracles that have to do with Christmas. This one I've always liked. "Welcome me not into a manger but into the altar to holiness, where holiness abides in perfect peace." (OrEd.Tx.15.31) Jesus is saying, don't think lack. Don't think lowly. Don't think manger. We can make manger into a positive thing, but I think in this quotation he means manger, you know, the barn. The place Mary and Joseph went when there wasn't any place for them at the inn. They had to go to the manger, the barn, where the animals were. Jesus is saying to us in the Course, "Don't welcome me in that kind of lack energy." We might see that as poignant, and we could feel sad that he was birthed in a manger, a barn, but let's transmute it. Let's move it up to the sublime.
I remember reading something from Edgar Cayce years ago about Jesus' birth. Cayce said we tend to misinterpret the whole manger thing. The inn keeper knew they were coming. They were all Essenes, so the inn keeper knew they were coming. The code was "Tell them ‘No room at the inn.'" There was actually room at the inn, but they told Joseph and Mary there was no room at the inn. Then the inn keeper could move them back to the stables where the Essenes wanted them, because there was a lot more room there and they could have attendants there. The inn itself was crowded, and noisy – possibly not that clean. Bringing Joseph and Mary to the stables was better. That way, the inn keeper and the other Essenes could take care of Mary and Joseph and the possible newborn, without it causing a lot of attention. So the inn-keeper wanted them in the manger. That was the best place for them. It was the largest place, the most luxurious, the quietest place for them to be. That's moving the manger story from the poignant to the sublime. It's sweet then, to think of them there.
In another place in A Course in Miracles it says, "In this season (Christmas), which celebrates the birth of holiness into this world, join with me, who decided for holiness for you. It is our task together to restore the awareness of magnitude to the host whom God appointed for Himself." (OrEd.Tx.15.29) Restore that awareness of magnitude. Don't get caught in manger thinking. Don't get caught in the poignant. Don't get caught in that keen sense of sadness or regret. That's manger thinking. Transmute it. Move it to something sublime.
Another quotation. "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." (OrEd.Tx.15.108) So let no despair darken the joy of Christmas. Things happened this week that could have taken me to the poignant. I had my program this week on ACIM Gather on Friday. Somebody decided to heckle me the whole program – the whole program! Constant typing, insults, vulgar language, yada yada yada. I didn't respond to any of it. Lyn, who runs ACIM Gather, has asked me to not respond, because it just encourages the person. I know who the person is. I'm not going to give you the whole backstory, but I thought, "Here we go again. This happened before a couple of months ago. Must be Christmas time. The holiday must be triggering their poignant ideas, their keen sense of sadness and regret so they are going to take it out on me trying to do an internet radio program, a Christmas program, on ACIM Gather."
"Let no despair darken the joy of Christmas…" (OrEd.Tx.15.108) Just let it go. Transmute it. Just stay in my place on high. Don't go down into manger, lack thinking, and I was pretty much able to do that. I really congratulated myself for staying focused on what I was going to do and my thoughts about it all. I still sang Christmas songs in the program while all that was going on. It was fine. It was just fine and I actually felt love for the person and joining and oneness. I don't have to go into the whole history about this because it really doesn't matter. It was just fine.
Then yesterday, I was driving my car over here on Franklin Street and I was going to change lanes. I looked over to the right to look in my passenger's sideview mirror to see if anybody was there – and there was no sideview mirror! (laughter) I thought for a moment, "Do I have a sideview mirror on the passenger side of the car?" I had that moment of cognitive dissonance – confusion. I was thinking, "Wait, do I have a sideview mirror? Yeah, of course I have a mirror." I started looking at all the other cars. Yeah, they all got passenger side mirrors! I must have had a mirror too. I don't have a mirror now. I wondered if I was having a senior moment where I didn't remember if I had a mirror or not. I pulled over and got out of my car and my mirror had been ripped off, there were scratches and a busted mount. Someone had side-swiped my car. Who knows when or where. There was just no mirror. It was all ripped off and torn.
I had a moment of feeling sadness and regret that I now have to get this fixed. I have to take it to a body shop. I have to figure this out. I thought that I don't have time. But, I immediately then thought, "Let no despair darken the joy of Christmas…" (OrEd.Tx.15.108) It is two days before Christmas.
I guess somebody's body shop needs the work. I got a body shop that I used a year-and-a-half ago. I really like those guys. I'll go there and see if they are still there. I'll go there and it will be my chance to say "Hi" to Ty, who owns the body shop, and Tony, who works in the body shop. It will be great. I'll go see Ty and Tony. I guess they need a little business, and it will be good to see them. I just transmuted it. It went from something poignant to something divine just like that.
It's always that way if we just choose it. A Course in Miracles says "This Christmas, give the Holy Spirit everything that would hurt you. Let yourself be healed completely that you may join with Him in healing, and let us celebrate our release together by releasing everyone with us." (OrEd.Tx.15.103) That's what we do. Everything that would maybe hurt us, whether it be a heckler, or a side-swipe with a sideview mirror gone, you just offer it up to the Holy Spirit. You ask for a new perception. You transmute it from something poignant to something sublime.
A year and a half ago on my 64th birthday, I found out my older sister Angelia was suing me. It just happened. That one took me a little time to transmute the energy around. It all worked out, and it all probably worked out together for good. One of these days my sister Angelina and I will talk again. I keep sending her Christmas cards. I sent her a Christmas card again. I bless her. I don't let any of those things move me down into poignancy, move me down into despair, move me down into any keen sense of lack or loss. I think about my childhood, thinking of those little sips of anisette with my sister Angelia and my sister Sara. All those old memories and why can't we … yada yada yada. It's ego-thinking. Just let it go. Have a sip of anisette. (Rev. Tony takes another sip.) It's really good. Then just smile.
I think of Christmas Eve and all the good times we've all had and we will all have again, as well as all the love and joy and relationships that are in my life now. Truth is there is no lack of relationship in my life. People and things come and go in the dream. What I remember of the past is just a dream. Who knows what happened, but here we are! Here we are on Christmas Eve day. We are a wonderful gathering here with friends and spiritual family. We have special food and all kinds of reasons to be sublimely happy. Why descend into poignancy?
"The sign of Christmas is a star, a light in darkness. See it not outside yourself but shining in the Heaven within and accept it as the sign the time of Christ has come." (OrEd.Tx.15.102) So Christmas is symbolized by a star, a beam of light, a manifestation of light. Don't see it up there in the dark night sky, but see it in yourself. See it as a ray of light in you.
I was reading in the Circle of Atonement edition of A Course in Miracles and there was a line I read that I had never seen in the Original Edition or the FIP Edition. It says that we are all rays of light in God's mind. We are all rays of light in God's mind. I thought, "That's just great." That is the star. That ray of light that is within us, as we are within God. As within, so without. We are a ray of light. There is a ray of light within us. God is in us; we are in God.
That is what we are here to focus in on this Christmas. That is what will allow us to transmute all of our poignant thoughts into sublime thoughts. This next Christmas quote I had forgotten about. This is an amazing quote. It says, "Christmas is not a time; it is a state of mind." (OrEd.Tx.4.41) Isn't that amazing. It's not a time; it's a state of mind. "The Christ Mind wills from the Soul, not from the ego, and the Christ Mind is yours." (OrEd.Tx.4.41) So right now we are in the Christmas time which gives us a little window of opportunity to really strengthen the Christmas state of mind, because the world is giving us so much permission and support to do that.
That is why I like to go full blown with Christmas. It's like charging a battery. You have all this extra power to charge your Christmas battery right now. Today, tomorrow, the day after. Charge it. Christmas isn't really this time of year, but it's a state of mind. However this time of year gives us the opportunity to make that state of mind so strong that it can last throughout the whole year, that it can last throughout our whole lives. That is what we are here to do. We can do it now. We can do it today. We can do it tomorrow on Christmas day. We can do it throughout this whole Christmas season. The energy of Christ is being born within us. That energy of the star is within us, the ray of light within us. We can strengthen it so much that it will carry us throughout the rest of our lives.
One last Christmas quote, "The holy Christ is born in me today. Watch with me, angels; watch with me today. Let all God's holy Thoughts surround me and be still with me while Heaven's Son is born." (OrEd.WkBk.303.1) I like to think of passages like this as not being metaphors but being literal. When we are asking the angels to watch with us. We are really doing it. We are really asking angelic beings to be with us. They are with us, always with us. Maybe it's just a declaration that we will be aware they are with us.
Remember the quote we read earlier from today's lesson, "No call to God can be unheard nor left unanswered." (OrEd.WkBk.358) If we call to the angels to watch with us, they will be with us. Feel that over the next couple of days. Call to the angels right now with me. "Hey angels! Watch with me! Come to me! Be with me for these next two days."
Let me always choose the sublime. If something poignant happens, let me transmute it and feel that keen sense of wonder, of beauty, of grandeur. There should be no manger thinking for the next couple of days, just abundance thinking. Give no thought of what you don't have. Think about what you do have. It's amazing all the greatness and grandeur that we have. It's spectacular what we can celebrate here in this time of light, with the Christmas time to strengthen the Christmas state of mind.
Happy Christmas Eve Day. Amen. That's it. (applause) ♥
Rev. Tony Ponticello is CMC's 20th minister. He currently serves as the CMC's Executive Minister (12.13.2021). He is also the President of the CMC Board of Directors. He was ordained by the CMC on Oct. 17, 1997.
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the December 2018 (Vol. 32 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.