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Thursday, January 3, 2019

Celebrating Epiphany

Some Christian traditions celebrate Epiphany on January 6 as the day when the Magi, or wise men as they are commonly known, arrived in Bethlehem to honor the birth of Jesus. The wise men came from a distant land and were most likely of the Zoroastrian tradition. Their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh were precious commodities and worthy of royalty. For many who view the story literally, the acknowledgement of the wise men from the East signified that Jesus was born as the savior for all the world, not just for Jews. Their recognition of Jesus as a newborn king represents the proclamation to the Gentiles, those not of Jewish heritage, that he, indeed, was the Son of God.

In Unity, we do not adhere to the traditional liturgical calendar; therefore, we do not ceremoniously celebrate Epiphany. We do, however, explore the deeper meaning that this aspect of the extant Christmas story holds for us as we evolve in our recognition, realization and revelation of our Christ nature and its innate gifts. As Unity cofounder, Charles Fillmore, said, in Unity we do not so much focus on the historical aspects of Jesus or the Christmas story, but on the metaphysical truths inherent in it, as well as in all Bible stories.

Metaphysically, the wise men traveling from a distant land and bringing gifts to the baby represent the powers of our spiritual self that may be hidden from us until we awaken to our Christ nature. They are then revealed to us and bless us with their gifts.

Metaphysically, gold represents the “richness of substance.” Substance is not the same as matter but is that which provides the foundation of all matter. Substance is the building block for the material universe. It is rich with all potential and possibility. It is the creative medium that responds to and forms itself in alignment with our thoughts and feelings. This is a foundational teaching of Unity which we often refer to as the “law of mind action.” We may also hear it expressed as, “thoughts held in mind produce after their kind,” or “what you think about comes about.”

When we embrace and embody our Christ nature, our thoughts and feelings come into alignment with the Truth of our being and our manifestations take on the qualities of the Divine. This is the distinction Charles Fillmore makes when he teaches that all thoughts/feelings are formative, but not all thoughts/feelings are creative. All thoughts/feelings form energy fields to which substance responds, and when our thoughts/feelings are in alignment and endowed with the energy of our Christ nature, they become creative, meaning that our manifestations are enduring.

Our fullest potential for creating a world, including our personal experience, that is in alignment with our Christ nature lies in our accepting, receiving and embodying the purity and potential of the “gold” inherent in the Christ of our being.

Metaphysically, myrrh represents the eternity of Spirit, and the anointing of love. In The Revealing Word, we read that ‘Spirit’ is -- “God as the moving force in the universe; Principle as the breath of life in all creation; the principle of life; creative intelligence and life.”

Spirit is revealed to us in the quiet of our hearts and minds. It is the source of all Divine Ideas to which we can and do attune in the Silence. When we open to and allow Spirit to inform our thoughts and affect our feeling nature, the energy of Spirit infuses our creative capacity. This energy acts upon substance and creates manifestations that are in alignment with a higher knowing and order. With this anointing of Love and our attention to and allowing of it, we participant in the Divine Plan of peace and plenty for all humanity.

Lastly, frankincense represents the transmutation of physical consciousness into spiritual. We teach in Unity that consciousness is pivotal. This means that because of the nature of freewill, we choose the direction of our conscious attention. We may choose to focus primarily on the physical or material world and strive to affect creation from that perspective. Alternately, we may choose to focus our attention on the activity of Spirit as us, listen for the still, small voice within, follow its leading and surrender to a will that is greater than that of our adverse-ego, or what might be called our false self.

In the Christmas story, this aspect of ourselves is represented by Herod who seeks to kill the newborn Jesus. While our adverse-ego, or false self, is not our enemy, it constitutes our habitual ways of limited thinking and reacting from physical consciousness, and it most often informs our actions. When the awareness of our Christ nature is awakened, it appears to be a threat to the presumed power of the false self because our habitual ways of being are challenged. This can often create internal conflict that we must face and resolve as we awaken and grow more fully into our Christed being, or true self.

Although it may happen for some, for most of us this transmutation does not occur instantaneously, but is a process that requires our practice, patience and presence. It requires that we make conscious choices moment-by-moment about where we place our attention.

Do we choose to allow the false self to rule or do we give power to the Christ within and follow its direction? Do we choose to continue to create our lives and our world from thoughts/feelings that are primarily influenced by the perspective of the false self, or do we allow our thoughts/feelings to be renewed by our conscious attention to the true self? Do we react from our conditioned mind, or do we respond from a renewed awareness of who we truly are?

As we celebrate these last few days of Christmastide and explore the significance of Epiphany for ourselves, I encourage us to contemplate the gifts of the Spirit within us which are represented in the story by the Magi and their gifts to the newborn Jesus. It is up to each of us to decide if we will receive the gifts, open to their power, and use them effectively.

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