Love your neighbor - especially when it isn't easy
Do You Hear What I Hear?1
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king
Do you know what I know
In your palace warm mighty king
Do you know what I know
A child, a child
Shivers in the cold
Let us bring him silver and gold
Let us bring him silver and gold
As we light the third candle on the Advent wreath, representing Love, Rev. Joanne asks us “Do You Know What I Know?”
A wonderful thing about human language is that some words have multiple meanings. When asked if we know something, what does that mean? Merriam-Webster dictionary gives eight definitions of the word: to perceive directly; to have understanding of; to recognize the nature of; to recognize a person or thing; to be acquainted with; to have experience of; to be aware of the truth of a thing; to have practical understanding of.
All of these definitions, while certainly important and correct, are of a cognitive intellectual nature. They all involve a sensory perception of some kind, and are essential to allowing us to successfully navigate our lives in the physical world. But when we are being asked in a spiritual context if we know something, these definitions are not sufficient.
In The Revealing Word2, Charles Fillmore speaks to the idea of spiritual knowing:
Knowing: There is in man3 a knowing capacity transcending intellectual knowledge. Nearly everyone has at some time touched this hidden wisdom and has been more or less astonished at its revelations. The knowing that man receives from the direct fusion of the Mind of God with his mind is real spiritual knowing.
During the Christmas season we often read the story of the coming of Jesus as told in the Gospel of Luke. It is usually recounted beginning in Chapter 2 with the decree of Caesar Augustus for a census. Mary and Joseph must return to Bethlehem to be counted. While this is the account of the arrival of Jesus, the story really begins in Chapter 1 with the birth of John, son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. The child John would be known in his adult life as John the Baptist. He would be the one who prepared the people for the ministry of Jesus.
John was an active preacher. At a time when the Jews were under the rule of the unpopular King Herod, as well as the Roman emperor, John was delivering a message of the coming of the Messiah, the one who would free them from their bondage. He had many followers who were only too ready to embrace the idea of someone who would deliver them from their woes, just as Moses had done in the days of old. They were wanting and expecting someone who would forcibly expel the foreign imperialists and restore true sovereignty to the Jewish people.
But John ran afoul of the authorities. He had rebuked Herod for breaking the law and marrying the former wife of his brother Philip. Herod imprisoned him, but hesitated to execute him because he was very popular with the people and Herod feared a riot and an uprising. Herodias, the woman Herod married, was also unhappy at the rebuke. At a birthday party for Herod, Salome, daughter of Herodias, danced for Herod and pleased him so much that he promised her anything she asked for up to half his kingdom. To his surprise, at the urging of her mother, Salome asked for the head of John the Baptist. Although he did not really want to execute him, to make good on his promise and save face, he granted the request and John was beheaded.4
So what are we to make of the story of John the Baptist? Unity teaches that John the Baptist represents the intellect that precedes the Christ. When we refer to the Christ, we do not mean only the person Jesus of Nazareth, but rather the Christ Spirit that indwells every person. His story tells us that when the intellect gets in the way of our good, it must step aside to make room for a spiritual solution.
Jesus did not preach a message of military uprising, a solution of the intellect, but taught us how to be in community with one another through love, forgiveness, justice, understanding, and compassion.
Even though we are not in the same situation as the Jews during the time of John the Baptist and Jesus, their stories still have much to teach us. When we open our minds to the greater awareness that the Christ is within us and is not external, we can then become aware of where the intellect is getting in the way of letting Love flow from us as the Christ expressing.
In verse three of Do You Hear What I Hear, a shepherd boy asks the question “Do you know what I know, Mighty King? In your palace warm, Mighty King?” We are not kings or queens and we do not have an actual palace. But we all do have some sort of “palace warm.” It may be that we are too comfortable, or fearful, in our current situation to risk stretching ourselves outward to relate to others who may be having trouble. Or it may be that we have trouble seeing the Light in another of whom that might be very difficult.
To see another person from a place of spiritual understanding rather than intellectual understanding is not an easy thing to do. When someone is abrasive, mean spirited, rude, scheming, or even what we deem as outright evil, it may seem impossible.
The nativity story of Jesus is replete with symbolism. In the Gospel of Matthew we read of the Gifts of the Magi – gold, frankincense, and myrrh.5 These gifts represent riches of the Spirit. The Magi are also referred to as the Wise Men. The spiritual gifts they brought to Jesus were that of love and wisdom. When we apply these gifts in our lives to all situations, we move into alignment with divine answers to whatever we may be experiencing.
Love is a verb. We are reminded each year by the Advent Wreath to embrace love. Let us do so now, but not forget to continue to do so, not just during Advent, but all throughout the year.
Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. Philippians 4:7
As you move about your day, be in the question of: “What does love look like here?” Choose to be love in action this week . . . especially during those moments when you would rather not.
We have many opportunities to be love in action, if we only remain alert and open to recognizing them. Such opportunities might range from allowing another car into your lane ahead of you during rush hour, to giving of your time as a volunteer at a soup kitchen. It may be blessing an aggressive driver who curses at you with love instead of anger, or being kind with someone during a difficult conversation instead of adversarial. This week, I will look for and be open to receiving the chance to be love in action by recognizing that when I feel uncomfortable about a situation, that it is alerting me of a learning opportunity and a chance to practice being love in action.
1Do You Hear What I Hear?, Lyrics – Noel Regney; Music – Gloria Shayne.
2Revealing Word, The, Charles Fillmore, Unity Press, 1959
3During the time that Charles Fillmore was writing, the use of the word “man” in this context denoted the reference to all humans, not to refer only to males. Modern writers would likely use the word humanity or all people in its place. Similarly, when Fillmore or other Unity writers refer to race consciousness, they are not referring to a person’s physical skin color or appearance, but rather as a reference to the human race as a collective.