December 24th, 2010 by A.G.J.
Often when we go to church, it’s the adults who’ve come to listen and the children who are told to sit still and behave. A lot of kids – not all but many – think church is boring and hard to understand. I think a lot of times they’re right. And on behalf of God and Jesus, I want to tell all of you how sorry I am about that, and I want to ask you not to turn from God because of what has or hasn’t happened in church. Church and God are not the same thing. There’s a wonderful story about an elderly gentleman down south sitting on the steps of a church. God comes and sits next to him. After a moment, the man says, For twenty years, I been trying to get in this church, and they won’t let me in. God just nods his head, I know, son, they won’t let me in either.
So here’s my Christmas Eve confession: I don’t always love going to church either – unless it’s here. This chapel makes my soul sing. If it hadn’t been built, I probably wouldn’t be a minister. My point is please do not confuse Jesus and God with going to church. In fact, it oughta be said that no one was more critical of organized religion than Jesus. Can we hear that? He knew it wasn’t about going to Temple and doing what we think we’re supposed to do. For Jesus, our bodies are the real temples. They house the God within all of us. We don’t encounter/experience/express the divine through “should’s. I should go to church. I should pray. I should help others. The deeper truth is that beyond the “should”s lies our Truth and that love that we are, in our core, is like a snowflake or a fingerprint. No two are the same. How you experience God is unique. Your path is not mine. And remember, Family, the door to God is everywhere. We don’t even need a key because the door itself is an illusion. God is here/now/still/always. Isn’t it ironic? We’ve “never left the house and yet we’re all trying to find our way home”. (Old Eastern Saying)
I want to inspire you today. I want to lift your spirits up and connect you with who you truly are – that magnetic love, that power, creativity, and beauty. I want to remind you that You are the miracle you’ve been waiting for, that within you is pure peace and ocean-deep joy. No matter what you’ve been through. No matter what you struggle with. Your story is unfolding to reveal your beautiful, incandescent heart and remarkable, rare spirit.
And yes, there was a time in my life when I didn’t believe that at all. When words like that actually stung and cut like jagged glass. I believed I was damaged, ugly, fat, untalented, and dumb. I thought that maybe the doctors were right. Maybe I really was sick and in need of daily medication. Most painful of all was the hidden, core belief I carried: that I was unlovable. If you have ever felt that way, then, as my five year old niece, Georgia, would say, we have a connection. (Then she’d hold her thumb and pinky up gesturing back and forth from me to herself.)
What brought me through that and enlightened me otherwise was my discovery that other people weren’t rejecting me. I was rejecting me. I was so full of fear and fright. And what I’ve learned is that my fear blocks god’s flow. It really is that simple. Fear is a product of the mind, God is not. The choice is a clear one: trust in your mind’s fear or God’s love. Period.
I read the other day about a woman who was asked if she’d ever had a mystical experience, oh yes, she replied. Every time I gaze into an infant’s face. It makes such sense to me that God would appear to us as a child – as a baby, that he’d start with that remarkable vulnerability, acceptance, and presence. Here are some of the wonderfully wise and profound things children said when asked what Love means: Billy age 4 said, “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.” Bobby age 7 said, “Love’s what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.” And Nikka age 6 said, “If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend you hate.”
I could go on and on quoting children and the marvelous, funny, wise things they say – and if you want to hear more, just ask me – but for now consider reflecting on this: the story of the birth of Jesus is anything but boring and typical. Jesus’ birth story sets in motion a tale that defies the odds. It is a miracle – his birth, his life, his death, and his redemption. All of it a miracle…. Just like you.