We Inspire People to Live Better Lives


The Christmas Story

Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Featuring: Rev. Richard Rogers

Click HERE to download this transcript.

Rev. Richard Rogers: Do you know I think I’m funnier than I actually am?

[Congregation laughs]

You know? And the reason I know that I’m funnier than I actually am, because when I’m writing my talk… When I’m writing the notes for my talk – I don’t write it all out – but when I write the notes for my talk, there’s times when I’m typing the notes for my talk where I have to just stop, because I’m cracking myself up, right?

[Congregation laughs]

And I know that when I share it into the room, it’s not going to go over, right? But my inner sense of “But that’s hilarious!” demands that I say it anyway, even though I know it’s going to bomb in the room. So, sometimes I know – no, I always know – that I’m not as funny as I think I am, right?

[Congregation laughs]

So when I say something and you go, “It’s not really funny, Richard,” I know!

[Congregation laughs]

But it’s so funny to me that my commitment to my own internal funny bone is that I have to share it. Alright?

So, having prefaced this long spiel for what I’m about to say next… [Laughs] I still think it’s funny!

[Congregation laughs]

What is your relationship with peace? If you think about it: what’s your relationship with peace? And I thought about some of the options, like: “Well, I met her once at a party.”

[Congregation laughs]

Right? “We dated a few times in college.” “We called off our engagement.” Or, “We’ve been happily married for 30 years.” If you were going to pick one of those aspects of peace, how would you describe your relationship with peace? Like, is peace something that you’re just down on: you’ve got it; it’s in every cell of your body, and you just move from one moment to the next moment, and you’re just living in peace. And you never get anxious; you never get fearful. You never get distracted. Peace is just at the core of your being, and you’ve got this one.

Or is peace something that you’ve kind of dated once or twice, and it ended badly, and you just don’t go there anymore? Right? Like, there’s her half of the town, and you stay on your half of the town, right?

And what I want you to see is: I have this belief that, for most of us, peace is not something that we’ve nailed down yet. I think if you look at the world right now, it’s kind of evident that we’re a work in progress when it comes to peace. Like, we often don’t have peace in our families, in our communities; we don’t have peace in our nation. We don’t have peace in the world. We don’t have this one yet!

And, yet, every year at Christmastime, we light a candle for advent; we light a candle for peace. And if you’re here every week – if you’re here both Wednesday and Sunday – there’s twice a week where you sing, “Let it begin with me!” And then we go out into the parking lot, and all heaven breaks loose. Right?

[Congregation laughs]

So it’s not something that we’ve really got anchored in deeply into our life yet. But it’s something that I think – if we tell ourselves the truth – that we want. Like, we want peace. We want peace in our lives; we want peace in our families. We want peace in our communities; we want peace in our world. We want it; we just don’t seem to know how to get it. And it seems like if we could just get everybody to behave the way we want them to, right? Then we could finally be at peace! But it never seems to work like that. Because we want to control everybody. Come on, just a little bit! Can you admit that – just a little bit –

[Congregation laughs]

That if you were king or queen, you would just create peace, because they would have to listen to you!

[Congregation laughs]

So how do we really get there? That’s where I want to go tonight. I want to tell the Christmas story, but I want to really hear it from the next level of our own peace. So what’s the requirement for peace?

I believe that the requirement for peace is… The first one is GOD. It’s God. We do need something out – that is bigger than our own ego – to hang onto to get to peace. Because if you’re the center of the universe, it’s exhausting. It is absolutely exhausting. If all you have to depend on is yourself, even if you get through a day, and everything’s perfect, you still go to bed exhausted, knowing that you have to get up the next day and do it all over again. If all you have to hang onto is yourself, life is anything but peaceful. It is exhausting. It is traumatic. It is overwhelming. It is hard. And if we’re going to get to peace, we have to really decide if we’re going to believe in God. Because without God, there is no peace. There really cannot be peace.

And if we believe in God, the next thing it leads to is TRUST. Because if we say we believe in God, but we don’t really trust God with our life, then we don’t really believe in God. We believe in the concept of God, but it’s not really a principle that we rely on to really make our life better. If you really say you believe in God – if you believe that there’s a Power greater than yourself – if you’re in the Steps, or if you believe that there is a God, then at some point you have to decide: Am I going to trust this Presence and Power in the Universe? Or am I really going to be a solo proprietor all my life? Am I gonna really just do this all by myself? And you can do it that way… But what I want you to see is: what you give up is peace.

But if you believe in God, and you trust God, then the next step in this process is that we actually then begin to SURRENDER. Right? We actually surrender to God. We surrender the moment. We surrender the experience. We surrender what’s going on in our life. We surrender it, because we know that every time we surrender – every time we move into peace; every time we kind of take a dep breath…. Just everyone take a deep breath with me. [Takes deep breath, in and out] Isn’t that fabulous? That every time we just take a deep breath, it takes us to a deeper level of peace: that God is right there. And so, our shallow breathing – our intellectual understanding – are trying to figure it out, are trying to control everything. Living from that mental – from that “Rar rar rar rar rar rar rar” – right? Does everybody know what I mean by that? When we live from that place, right? And then we take a deep breath and we just trust, and we just sink in, and we surrender, and we just let God be in charge.

Now, when we let God be in charge, does that mean that everything’s going to turn out exactly the way it should? Heavens, no! But your peace is worth it! The peace is just deeper; it allows you to surrender; it allows you to take a breath. It allows you to live in joy and know the glory of God. It’s just better!

So if you think of one thing that you’ve been in resistance to – if you think of one thing you’ve been trying to control in your life – does everybody have at least one thing that you’re, like, white-knuckling? Especially at Christmastime! If there’s one thing you let go of…

If you really say, “Okay; but I do believe in God! If I do believe in God, then why am I hanging on so tight? If I really believe in God, why am I so scared about this situation? If I really believe in God, why does this situation so overwhelm me? Why am I spending so much time worrying if I really believe in God? If I really believe in God, then I’ve got to be willing to trust. If I really believe in God, trust is the only thing that makes sense! If I believe that there’s a Presence and Power that’s active – that is pure love, that is infinite goodness – I say that… I say that I believe that. But if I don’t really it – if I don’t really put it into practice, then I don’t ever live in trust. But if I believe that, then I have to trust.”

[Congregation laughs]

“And then if I trust, what would happen if I surrendered? Well, I’d lose control…” And what would be wrong with that? “Well, I’ve been hurt in the past. I’ve been traumatized. I’ve been in pain.” Well, what would happen if you surrendered your pain? What would happen if you surrendered everything?

Okay, let’s go to Scripture. Now, two of the people that I want to talk about in the Christmas story tonight are Mary and Joseph. Because each one of them had a personal, profound relationship with God, and each one of them was asked to go beyond where they thought they could or should go in the Christmas story.

And, I’d like to suggest tonight that I think Mary – from a spiritual point of view – represents your spirit. I think Mary represents the deepest part of your soul. And I think Joseph represents the enlightened intellect… or the enlightened ego. He represents that part of us that is willing to do the right thing, but only understands what we can understand from our intellect.

So I’m going to share both of their Christmas stories: both of their birth stories of Jesus. And so I’m going to begin with Luke for Mary, of course, and then I’m going to do Matthew for Joseph.

So let’s go to Mary first: Luke 1, 26-38:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

So what’s the story? Angel of God appears to Mary, says you’re going to conceive and be God’s love baby and love mama … and so what did Mary do? She had two reactions, right? What was her first reaction?

[Congregation shouts out answers]

How is this possible, right? And then the Angel of the Lord tells her how this is possible. The Holy Spirit’s going to come upon you; It’s going to overshadow you, and you’re going to conceive and have a child. And then what did she say? “Great! Let’s roll!”

[Congregation laughs]

Right? That’s pretty much what she said, right? Now, let’s put this in a historical context. So, a woman in the Middle East – over 2,000 years ago – if she was pregnant and not by her husband, what would have happened to her? And don’t say she’d be shunned; she’d be stoned. She’d be stoned! Right? It would have been embarrassment to her family; it would have been an embarrassment to her fiancé. And out of the ego of that situation, she would have been put down. She would have been stoned. And so, instead of just saying, “Wait; what are my parents going to think? What is my family going to think? What’s my rabbi going to think? What is my community going to think?” She had two questions: “How is this possible?” And then, “Let’s go!”

And I want you to see that, for most of us, what Spirit’s asking us to do, we are in considerably more debate about taking our next step. Right? If Spirit says, “I want you to go here,” we say, “No!”

[Congregation laughs]

Then we say, “No; it’s going to look bad… People are going to think this about me… Or they’re going to do this..” You’re going to go into your story; you go into your drama. And what I want you to see is that your soul knows, when God speaks to you, it’s the highest and the best. And to the degree that our soul just says, “Yes!” we move forward in absolute peace. But when you need to figure it out – when you need to debate; when you need to be in resistance – there is no peace!

And I know it’s crazy hard to surrender to Spirit. But it’s actually harder not to! Because when you don’t surrender, then you’re left on your own! You’re left with, “How am I going to figure this out?” So then your mind and your ego kicks into hyper-drive and says, “Okay; how will I figure this out?!” And you can absolutely live that way… But what I want you to see in the Christmas story is: Mary just surrenders. “Let’s rodeo! Let’s make this happen!” Right? And she was risking everything.

What I want you to see is that, for most of us, God never asks that much. It feels like a lot to us; it feels like we’re giving up this or that or there’s a story or a drama or a situation… But she had to risk everything, and she put it all on the line.

So this Christmas, I want you to see that whatever you’re walking in, the options are really twofold: you’re either going to do it from you – and your ego and your personality and your intellect and figuring it out – or you’re going to trust that your soul and God has a plan for your life, and the very thing that you’re walking through is 100% what the highest and best is for you.

Now let’s look at Joseph. Matthew 1:18-25:

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took Mary as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until the son was born; and his name was Jesus.

So did Joseph have his own place of resistance? Did he have his own place of not understanding, intellectually, how this could possible happen, and how his fiancée could be with child when it absolutely made no intellectual sense how that was possible? But as a righteous guy, he was just quietly going to divorce her in a way that wasn’t a disgrace; he was just going to quietly do it. And the Spirit of the Lord said, “Nah; that’s not enough. That’s not even close to enough. You’re going to marry her, and you’re going to raise this child as your own, and you’re going to give a safe place for this child to be born.” And the next morning he gets up and says, “Got it; I’m in.”

So what I want you to see is: living a spiritual life is a challenge! Because, time after time after time, you kind of have to park your intellect and trust that something greater than your intellect is driving your life. And if you’re willing to trust that – if you’re willing to go with the flow; if you’re willing to accept whatever is showing up in your life – then everything in your life gets easier. But it doesn’t mean that nothing is asked of you. It doesn’t mean that’s not hard. It doesn’t mean that you’re not internally in debate about what’s going on in your life, and it doesn’t mean that your mind can’t come up with a better plan.

How many of you right now could think of a better plan for your life? Like, I could win the lottery! That would be a better plan that I could come up with, right? Somebody – whatever it’s up to: some $300 million – somebody could just drop it in my lap! I could come up with that plan! And if I believe that plan is really God’s plan for me, I’m a little weird, right? Because the plan that is showing up in my life is the plan I’m supposed to be walking. Does that make sense? The way life is is the way it’s supposed to be, because that is reality. And just because your mind can think of a better plan, you’re supposed to actually walk the plan you’re living, not the plan you made up in your head.

So, you get to have a vote; your vote just doesn’t count very much!

[Congregation laughs]

Can I get an “Amen”?

[Congregation: “Amen!”]

What you get is today: just the way your today is. And as you walk today in faith – believing in God, trusting and surrendering – there is peace. There is a deep, deep peace.

So what situation in your life would you have to let go to be at peace right now? What thought? What judgment? What attitude would you have to let go and trust God right where you are, and walk the life that you’re given? Not the life you think you should have been given. Because it doesn’t help you, every day, to think your life is wrong. Or your life is bad, or it’s not what I thought I was supposed to have. Or it wasn’t supposed to look this way.

I want you to walk the life that is right in front of you, and trust God right there. That’s spiritual living. That’s knowing the glory of God. Because when you remove all your drama and all your thoughts and all your stories, and you actually get into your life, that’s where you find God. That’s how we give birth to the Christ within. That’s how we become the best versions of ourselves, as the man or woman of God: is walking the life we’re in.

Okay; you ready for your homework? So your homework this week is to live in total peace. Right? No big deal! Live in total peace, right? Chhhh! Please! Right? Easy, peasy, right?

[Congregation laughs]

And so how do we get there? We 100% decide that we believe in God. We just decide that we’re going to believe in God! We’ve tried not believing in God, and it’s just easier when you believe in God. So we’re going to decide we believe in God, and then we’re going to decide that, if I really believe in God, that I’m going to trust God with whatever shows up today. If today is this, I’m going to take and I’m going to live whatever is today. I’m going to trust. Does that mean I can’t work for a different life? It doesn’t mean I can’t work on my goals or my desires or create a better life. But I’m going to start right where I am. I’m going to trust God: that if this is the way my life is, I’m going to trust it right here. And so I’m going to surrender all my judgments, all my attitude, all my thoughts that it should be different. I’m going to surrender everything that keeps me out of being right here, right now, right where I am now. I’m going to surrender all that! I’m going to clear it away. And I’m going to move right now completely into this moment, and I’m just going to feel what it feels like when I’m no longer resistant to my own life.

And what I think you will feel is a profound sense of peace. That every day, you walk your life. Every day you accept what is, and walk your life. And what I believe – when you get your head out of the way; when you really learn to surrender – every day becomes complete unto itself. Every day is just one more step in your peace.

Are you willing to try? And we’re going to try it at Christmastime. And everybody thinks, well, it would be easier if I didn’t have to do all this stuff, or it would be easier when I finally get the family figure out, or it would be easier when this or that… But right here. We just stay right here. I believe in God. I trust God with everything in my life. And I surrender all my crazy thoughts so that I can stay present in the moment.

Will you pray with me?
I want you to open your mind, your heart, your soul to right now: to the God that is fully present right here, right now, right where you are. Not where you think you should be; not where you want to be; not where you think you’ll be in five or 10 or 20 years. But right here, right now. This is where I am, God. And this is the life that I’m walking. And I believe that you’re right here, right now, and that I can trust you with exactly what’s going on in my life. And I can surrender all my thoughts, all my judgements, all my beliefs, so I can just be present right here. And so it is. Amen.

God bless you all; I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas season!

Copyright 2019 Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center/Rev. Richard Rogers


Location and Contact Information

Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center

1500 E Greenway Pkwy
Phoenix, AZ 85022
Phone: (602) 978-3200

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