Christmas Message – 2008

What is the Christmas message for “all humankind”  – regardless of religious labels?

The Christmas story tells us that divine love can be experienced in human form. Jesus of Nazareth was an exceptional human being; some believe he was the incarnation of God.  But that belief is not necessary to understand that divine or unconditional love can be and must be a human experience.

That is the greatest challenge we face today: learning to love unconditionally and not just when it suits us. And to understand that love can mean concern and compassion, respect and empathy, and not “”preference”” and “”possession””. The usual Christmas message calls for peace on earth.  But peace would follow very naturally in the presence of love.  Love is the great transformational power. How could we wish to harm people whose lives we care about? Those we know, those we don’t know: our care has to be big enough to include them all.

We will have no peace on earth until we begin to understand and extend our vision of what love is – and especially who “deserves” it.
“Behind us all is one spirit and one life.” writes Sufi teacher and musician, Hazrat Inayat Khan. “How then can we be happy if our neighbour is unhappy?”

Love doesn’t mean you will like everything that other people do, think or believe; you won’t.  But you can honour their gift of life anyway, and protect their safety anyway.  And why would you do this?  Because it will profoundly benefit you and the people you already love. It will bring generosity to life. It will lift people’s spirits rather than dash them. And it will create the world of your dreams.

The second great message of Christmas is that of renewal.  The great Jewish teacher, Baal Shem Tov has said, “The world is new to us each morning — that is the Lord’s gift, and we should believe we are reborn each day.”

The Christmas story – with its central image of a vulnerable infant lying in a manger – inspires a new start built on the foundations of love.

The Christmas story releases you from any limiting stories you are telling yourself about the past and lets you experience this present moment with renewed excitement, delight and hope.

You need to be strong to live a loving life – so how wonderful it is to discover that living a loving life makes you strong.  In fact, you cannot know what strengths you have until you claim them and risk living them.

That is the promise of Christmas.

That courage to live lovingly comes in part from recognizing what is important – and what is unimportant.   The fact that Jesus was born in a manger reminds you that material wealth is very unimportant when it comes to bringing love, happiness and renewal to any situation.  It is your INNER gifts that count.  It is your appreciation of life and how you treat other people on a daily basis that counts.

You want to live in peace, care for your friends and family, laugh, sing, play with the kids, pat the dog, tell stories, contribute to society, love the earth, and grow old in safety?  So do I.  What we share is far more significant than what divides us.  Looking into one another’s eyes, recognising each other’s vulnerabilities as well as our strengths, we already know that.
Love, peace, happiness, goodwill: whoever we are, however we have lived until this moment, each one of us can choose to embody and live out these great qualities in small and large ways.

Living lovingly, we can change the world – and our experience of it. This is the message of love.