Miracle of the Manger: Who’s There?
By Paula Payne Hardin
December 7, 2015
A new Christmas image just came to me. It was so unlike anything “I” would normally imagine, it was a shock. In fact it is affecting me to such an extent I can hardly type. I am literally trembling, making mistakes. But I feel compelled to share it. Let me give some background.
I have been immersed in A Course Of Love since October, 2014. In a little over a year I have read it through four times. I go slowly, rather like grazing, digesting one sentence or thought for days. Recently I have been steeping in the Fourth Treatise where Jesus encourages us to accept that “…changes of enormous proportions are upon you.” Just a few paragraphs later he proclaims: “You have arrived! The journey that has brought you here is over.” T4:12.5, 15. “You have arrived” has become a mantra. I say it over and over. It interrupts my sleep. It sings in my heart when I’m awake. “I have arrived!”
Then this morning, poking along in my reading, I began Chapter 3 of the Dialogues titled “The Covenant of the New.” Simmering in the juices of this chapter, I had many A-Ha! moments. The main theme is how the new can triumph over the old. In order for the new to “triumph”—for the truth to triumph over illusion—the old must be denied, overcome. In essence, the new only emerges when I truly accept who I really am, “the wholehearted self in union with all.”
I find some of these ideas dense, and I have to mull them over. And so Jesus wooed me along, coaching me so I could accept, or surrender, to—the truth of who I am. He is encouraging us to choose to return to what we were intended to be by our Creator, before the big separation occurred and fear began to replace love. Now putty in his hands, Jesus has my attention!
And I am realizing that Jesus is explaining an upcoming transformation that has never happened before in our history! That the body is being transformed, at the level of cells and atoms, into the energy of the Self. The Self was and will always remain more than the body. The body, however, is also newly the Self. The body is also, newly, one body, one Christ. It is this difference that exists between the Self and the elevated Self of form that make of us creators of the new. . . D:3.18, 19.
The next few words are what hit me between the eyes: “The elevated Self of form is new. The Self is eternal. Your Self of elevated form is newly birthed, just as I was once newly birthed even though my Self was eternal.”
I had just unpacked my crèche. The image of the Nativity scene popped into my mind along with the words, “This Christmas, put yourself in the manger!” My heart stopped beating. “This Christmas, put yourself in the manger!” I heard. OMG what an idea. In my imagination I saw myself as the newly birthed baby in the manger. It was such a powerful image. It felt almost sacrilegious. It left me shaking.
My old traditional Nativity scene had been lost and I recently replaced it with one a modern one designed by an Eastern European. Part of the reason I was attracted to it was that the baby Jesus was cozily covered in a patterned blanket, not almost nude and shivery looking. And I also thought “he” looked feminine and it was about time for the feminine to be born. But me? Me in the manger?
My Christmas wish is that you will join me and “put yourself in the manger” this year. Together we can represent our newly birthed elevated Self of form. What if we did this as a group? Who knows what the ripple effect might be.
Joy to the world, the new has come! Let earth receive this gift. Let every heart prepare the room And heaven and nature sing And heaven and nature sing And heaven and heaven and nature sing!
P.S. Last night (12/7/15), preparing for bed, I went around turning out the lights. Passing the Nativity scene I was surprised that 2 of my 7 battery operated votive lights there were on. I’d had them off all day! The two that were on flanked the Manger in the stable. Pondering my approaching senility, I switched them off and went to bed. Then the thought came to me “Is this a sign?” I thought no more about it.
This morning, the three cats having successfully gotten me up at 5:30 am with their usual disturbing strategies, I turned on the light by my bed. The rest of the house was dark. Padding around in my slippers and robe, I turned on the Christmas tree lights, and a few other lights. I passed the dark Nativity scene going to the kitchen and made their breakfast. Then I made a cup of hot tea with almond milk in it and headed for my meditation spot near the Nativity scene. The two votive candles flanking the Manger were on.
P.P.S. Last night (12/8/15) it finally got cool in Florida and I had all the windows and doors leading out to the porch open. Lovely. At 3:00am I got up and walked through the house, savoring the night air and night feelings. Passing the Nativity scene where all was restfully dark, I wondered if the votive candles would go on once again or if that “sign” from wherever was over. At 5:30, with my cats prancing about, I went into the dark living room and there, on either side of the Manger, once again, the two battery operated votive candles were lit. The other five, scattered about the scene, were not.
P.P.P.S. (12/9/15) Do you think the votive candles lit themselves again today? I walked into my dark living room early this morning, not expecting it AGAIN—but there they were, 2 out of 7 battery operated votive lights lit. I have the stable, with Mary on the left, Joseph on the right, and the baby in the manger between. Flanking the baby in the manger were the two lighted votive candles. So I decided to light the other 5 scattered about the Nativity scene using the little switch on the bottom. Some were by the shepherd, a few by the Wise Men and animals. As I did, the 2 by the manger flickered out. I simply laughed. Whatever the energy I’m dealing with, it has a sense of humor!
Paula Payne Hardin appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show when her first book, “What Are You Doing With the Rest of Your Life? Choices in Midlife” appeared in 1992. She is also the author of “Love After Love: Stages of Loving” (1996).
By Paula Payne Hardin
August 24, 2013
At age eleven I remember walking
to my small Christian school one morning
And passing the playground of larger Holmes school
I paused a moment
Watching all those children
Happily running and yelling–
I felt left out.
A horrible thought came to me:
“They are all going to hell!”
Something is terribly wrong
It was a scary burden
to be one of the ‘elect’
Slowly another thought
seeped into my mind
“I wouldn’t do that,
send all those kids to hell,
am I nicer than God?”
Bone deep lurked my confusions,
fears and yes, rage.
It’s been quite a journey,
starved as I was for love
A breakdown in my later twenties;
years of seeking
Spiritual hungers that insisted
on being taken seriously
Not unlike flying, swirling, biting insects
Refusing to be ignored.
And I did it.
I kept on keeping on
That is the one piece of advice
I’d pass along to anyone seeking:
Keep on keeping on
And something miraculous,
which I slowly recognized,
kept me company
I don’t need you to understand.
I don’t need to explain it more than this
But now everything,
everything, everything is sacred.
Now I can choose love,
and give love
And when grace helps me recognize
some pollution in my loving
Love propels me to stop
until grace happens
and new clarity emerges.
What a journey
What a magnificent journey
I join with Dag Hammarskjold in saying
“To all that has been, thank you.
To all that will be, yes.”