Wednesday, December 22, 2021
Featuring: Rev. Richard Rpgers
Final Week of the 4-Week Series, "The Four Gifts of Christmas"

Click HERE to download this transcript.

Rev. Richard Rogers: Alright. So the question that I have for you tonight is: Does joy come from the outside in, or from the inside out? How many want to vote “from the outside”? How many want to vote “from the inside”? Aw; you guys have been paying attention! [Congregation laughs] Right?

So we’ve been working on these four aspects of Advent. Right? And, you know, I really took them into prayer in a brand new way this year. Because I really wanted to know: why these four aspects? And what was so significant about these four spiritual qualities that, year after year after year, the church focuses on these four spiritual ideas? And I’m not … I wasn’t arguing about that, but just like: why is it the same four? Like, why every year do we focus on the same four things?

And as I took it into prayer, I realized that these four qualities … that, if you do your spiritual work, these four spiritual qualities are a promise that God makes to every soul — That you will know these qualities in a deeper, more profound way in your life.

And so we began with hope. That everything starts with hope. Because hope is that thing that allows us to overcome every situation. Hope is the thing that allows us to get up off the ground when we feel like life’s knocked us down. Hope is that quality that allows us to keep on keeping on, and to be willing to believe in more than we’ve ever known before. To believe in possibilities. To believe in good. To believe that we can overcome every situation. And that’s what hope gives us! Without hope, we just stop. We just fall over, and pull the covers over our head, and we don’t get up. Right?

And so it all begins with hope. And I really want you to really open a space to entertain the idea of: how much hope are you living in? Are you living with the assumption that life is just going to keep on being the way it’s always been? Or is there a belief that you can actually hope for a greater day? That you can hope to have all the promise of God — all the promises of God — realized in your life? Because hope is the thing that allows our lives to become greater in every way. Without hope, we never step into faith. We never step into believing. We never step into really opening or accessing all the goodness of God. So it all begins with hope.

And then we talked about peace. And peace is lovely! Right? Peace is that soul quality that allows us to be in a good place no matter what’s going on around us. Like, peace is what so many of us in the world today are seeking, not exactly sure how to get to. You know, during the last 18 months, you know, the number of people that are on anti-anxiety medication has gone up by 10-15% in the U.S., because we don’t feel that deep sense of peace. We don’t feel that deep sense of connection.

And then last week we talked about love. And we talked about profound love, and what that means in our life. And how that heals us and changes us.

And tonight we’re going to talk about this quality called joy. And, for most of us, joy was taught to us as a two-part process. And the process for joy was: if I get want I want, then I will be in joy. If I get everything to look right and feel right — if everything in my life is exactly the way I want it to be — then there’s this teaching, or this belief, then we’re going to be in joy. Right? That joy is that outcome that we’re trying to get to if we eat all our food and clean our room and get good grades. And if we have the right house and spouse and car and income, you know, that we’re finally supposed to get to joy. And it’s kind of a shock when you get everything right, and you realize you’re still not in joy! You know, that it’s still not the quality or the experience that you wanted.

And so what we begin to learn is that joy isn’t about addition; it’s about subtraction. Joy is really about: what thought, what belief, what attitude would I have to let go of to be in joy right now? That joy isn’t a thing that happens to us when we get our life right; joy is a quality that — when we get our mind right right now: that what is the belief that I would have to let go of to be in joy right now? What is the self-talk that I’d have to forgive or release? Or the resentment or the upset that actually keeps me from experiencing really profound joy?

So joy really is the quality that’s required, like many of them, that we have to master our mind. We have to master our thinking process. Because, if our thoughts are just running amok … That’s a spiritual term. [Congregation laughs] Moses talked about that in the Old Testament. He said, “Do not run amok.” Or, “If you run amok, don’t do it on the Sabbath.” Right? So … [Laughs] Sorry! Sorry … Sorry. Right?

So joy [laughs] is a requirement that we master our mind. In Romans 15, we read this: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that the power of the Holy Spirit may abound in hope.”

From John 16: “When a woman is in travail, she has sorrow, because her hour has come. But when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish for the joy that a child is born into the world.”

You know, in the early 2000s, I had the honor of serving in a leadership role for an organization called the Association for Global New Thought. And in 2001, I had the honor of being in a dialogue — with about 50 spiritual leaders — with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. And our organization was the convening group that invited all these spiritual leaders.

And we went to Trento, Italy, which is northern Italy, just kind of outside of Venice. And it was completely destroyed during World War 2. It was bombed to ruins. And they rebuilt it and, as they rebuilt it, they dedicated the city to brotherly love. That they wanted to have the idea that love was going to be the power that rebuilt this city.

So we did this first dialogue with His Holiness, and it was three days long. And we were in a conversation. Because His Holiness said, “You know, I go to a lot of places …” And this is kind of a paraphrase. But he didn’t want to just be in an environment where people were asking him questions; he wanted to be in a discussion with other spiritual leaders, and to be in that process. So we had these three days of meetings.

And, because we were the convening group, one lunch he invited us to have lunch with him. So there were about eight of us and His Holiness. And, at the end of the lunch, I asked him, “Can I have my picture taken with you?” And he said, “Yes.” And so let’s shoot that up on the screen. Can you see it?

So … so you’re not supposed to touch His Holiness. It’s one of the things they teach you. You’re not supposed to touch him. Right? So when I asked to have my picture taken with him, you can see he grabbed … You can see both of his hands grabbed my arm and spun me … He kind of spun into me. Right? And so I’m the only person I know that has a prom picture with His Holiness. [Congregation laughs] Right? Because he kind of spun himself into me.

And then he was, like … And I’m … I’m … I don’t know if you can see it in this picture, but I’m so nervous that we’re this close — that I’m wrapped around him — that I’m a little freaked out. Right? And he’s giggling about the whole thing, right? He thinks it’s the funniest thing in the world that he’s kind of wrapped me around. And he’s giggling, and I can hear him giggling. And I’m so nervous that I’m giggling. Because, I mean …

And his entourage … There are serious people that protect him! And I’m thinking, “I’m going down!” is what’s happening here! [Congregation laughs] Right? “I’m going down!” Right?

And so it was just that it was a moment of just pure joy for me. Right? And I think about all that he does every day: his world travels; what’s going on in his homeland; what the Chinese are doing. And he’s got some real responsibilities, right? And his presence is pure joy. Right?

And I think about how many times we get so serious about the drama in our own life. And what if you were the spiritual leader of millions? And your homeland is being systematically destroyed? Could you find any joy in life? He has. Right? He has!

So two years later we convened again. Larger group. This time we invited the Italian media; an Italian television station televised it. We had about 50 spiritual leaders … 60, 70 spiritual leaders and another 200 people in attendance that were watching this thing. Watching this dialogue.

And I was able … They asked me if I would be the moderator for the last day. So I got to ask the questions and talk, and back and forth. And he had his interpreter there. And so on the stage was his interpreter, His Holiness and me. And a couple of times, he just reached over and either touched my knee or took my hand. And I’m like, “He’s touching me!” [Congregation laughs] Right? [Laughs] Like, it’s like a big deal! Right? It’s like, “He’s touching me!!!!”

And then, he didn’t like the TV lights. So somebody got him a Ping — and I’ve still got this picture — he’s got a Ping golf visor. An orange — because it had to match the outfit — he had an orange Ping golf visor that he wore because he didn’t like the television lights.

So we had this great day. And so, at the … This was the last day. At the end of it, all the conveners that were there, he gave us the white prayer shawl that had been blessed by him. So … is that [photograph] up there? So it’s up there. Great. So it’s up there.

And, you know, Tibetans can be big. Right? And His Holiness isn’t small. But I had to bend so far down for him to put the shawl over his head that he thought it was the funniest thing in the world. [Congregation laughs] He thought it was just so funny that I was so tall, and that I had to bend over. And I don’t know … Can you see? You can see in the picture; it’s not a great picture. But he’s just laughing that I’m bent over so far for him to put the shawl on.

And so … Show the next picture. The next picture isn’t a great picture, because half my head’s gone. [Congregation laughs] Oh, there it is. It’s not a great picture. But he actually punches me! [Congregation laughs] Right? He thought it was so funny I had to bend over. And so I’m the only person I know that has actually literally a prom picture with His Holiness, and has been punched by the man who stands for world peace. Right? [Congregation laughs]

And so … But I want you to … Can you see his face? I want you to see his face! Right? And I want you to see the level of joy that he lives in? Now, can he be serious? Yes! Is he the spiritual leader and political leader of his people? Yes! But I want you to see the level of his joy.

Because what I want to call you out on tonight is: if you’re anything like me, sometimes you get way too serious. Right? Sometimes you get way too anxious and too uptight. And our life begins to look bigger than it needs to be.

And tonight I really want to call you back to joy. And I know that, during the holidays, and stuff’s going on in your life … And I’m not trying to diminish in any way that we have real things going on in our life and the world. I mean, if you look in the world around us, there’s real stuff happening! And I don’t want to diminish that. And this is not a, “Just be happy anyway” talk. What this is about is: there’s a level of joy within us that is greater than the events of the world. And there’s a level of spiritual maturity — and it’s really maturity — when you touch that joy within you that actually lifts you higher than the details of your life.

Jesus said, “In the world there’s tribulation, but be of good cheer; for I have overcome the world.” Right? And that’s really what I want us to look at today. I want you to look at … As you do your spiritual work — as you desire to live a God-centered life — what I believe happens is: we unleash the joy that is within us. We unleash the ecstasy of God that’s actually greater than the events. And around here we teach that the inside creates the outside. So can you imagine that, as you become more filled with joy, that that’s going to ripple out and really transform your life?

Jesus said it this way in Matthew: “Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like a child, you will never enter into the kingdom of heaven.” And I love that whole idea that it is a turning that has to happen. Like, there’s a serious, fearful, wounded part of us that wants to control and be in charge of everything. Right? And there has to be a turning. And the turning is turning away from our ego representation of life into a belief that God is in charge. Or into a belief that we can let go and let God, and allow God to be in charge of our life.

But, for most of us, we have to really practice that turn. When you want to be fearful or anxious or afraid, there needs to be that moment where we turn into the possibilities of God. — where we turn into the goodness of God; where we turn into the love of God — that allows everything in our life to begin to flow with grace and ease. Because, until we make that turn, it’s our ego driving the bus.

Has everybody had that experience? Where your ego has made a mess of something? That you could have turned into God, and there would have been a level of grace and ease that you didn’t really get to experience because our fears caused us to hold on so tightly, that there was really no joy in Mudville? Right? There was no joy in our experience at all. Right?

And this turn … So it goes on. “Become like a child.” “Unless you turn and become like a child, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. So whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Okay?

So where in your life have you noticed that you’re not enjoying it very much? Or where in your life are you noticing that there may be a whole lot more joy available to you than you’ve ever really allowed in? In your finances? In your health? With your family and your work? Is there a place where you know that you have not fully experienced all the joy that God is for you? Or could be for you?  That’s the thing I want you to play with tonight. Is, like, “Oh; there’s this thing going on in my life. And I get so fearful. I get so anxious. I get so upset, that there’s just not a lot of joy in that for me.”

And especially during the holidays! You know, for so many of us, the holidays bring in all these expectations on the way it’s supposed to look or the way it’s supposed to go. Or the way that people are supposed to treat you. Or the way this and that, this and that. And all those expectations often don’t take us to joy. And there literally needs to be a turn at that moment into joy. Because sometimes, to reach for joy, it’s hard! It’s hard to be happy! It’s hard to be joyful! It’s hard to trust God when your ego wants to kick in and take control over everything.

So tonight I have … I have eight ideas on expanding your joy. The original concept was in Psychology Today, and all of them have psychological studies that prove they work. Right? So if you want to join.

The first one is GIVE. You know, we’ve all heard the old adage, “It’s better to give than receive.” But there’s actually been a test. It’s actually tested. Dunn, Aknin and Norton in 2008 did this study where they gave a certain amount of money. And I couldn’t find what the exact amount of money was. But they gave a certain amount of money to two groups of people. And the first group of people they said, “Just enjoy the money. Spend it on yourself. You have to spend it, and you have to spend it on yourself.” The other group of people they said, “You have to spend this money on other people. Like, you can’t spend it on yourself.” Right? “Can I get in the other group?” “No.” Right? [Congregation laughs] They said, “You have to spend it on somebody else.” Right?

And what they found was that, the group that was forced into giving to somebody else, actually scored considerably higher in the level of happiness than the people that spent it on themselves.

So the first one is … we know, right? Give! You know, find a place to give. Give … you know, you’ve given to this church so generously over the last 18 months, during this pandemic. Thank you; thank you; thank you! But give! Give, give, give! Because it feels good. It lifts us up.

Then the other research they did was to BUY EXPERIENCES, NOT THINGS. That people who spent money on things, they showed their level of happiness. Like, when you buy something, right? That there’s a level of happiness that you get to. But if you spend your money on experiences — movies, dinner with friends, whatever the experience is … travel … whatever the experience is — that the level of happiness starts out about the same level as in buying things. But people who spend money on experiences, their happiness actually stays higher, longer. Like, the experiences last longer than the object. Than buying things. So buy experiences, not things. Right? As we talked about.

Three. SHARING WITH OTHERS. Every research study shows that people that have deep, committed, close friends and family around them are actually the happiest.

Four. [Laughs] This one’s hard for me, because it says TAKE A PICTURE OF IT. Right? And now with our smart phones, everybody has a camera most of the time, right? And I really don’t need to see any more pictures of people’s meals or stuff on Facebook. [Congregation laughs] Right? But the research shows that, if you take a picture of it, every time you look at the picture, it just makes you happy.

Every … put it back up there! Every time I look at this picture, it makes me happy. In fact, this picture is on the back wall of my office. So every day I look at this picture, and it just makes me happy. And, you know, I would be happy if I just thought about that. But something about seeing it day after day …

And the other one that’s up on my wall is the one where he punches me. I just … I love that! Like, I could have the picture of when he put the scarf over my head. Right? And that’s nice, right? I mean, that he blessed me. I mean, I’m all for being blessed by the Dalai Lama. But the Dalai Lama punched me! [Congregation laughs] I think about every third-grade teacher that I had who wanted to punch me, and didn’t. Right? [Congregation laughs] And here he is! Right? So take a picture.

Five. GO INTO NATURE. Especially during times of stress, nature. Hike. Walk. Go for a walk through the park. Any time we get around nature, it tends to make us happier.

And this one … Point six. EMPHASIZE FREQUENCY OVER INTENSITY. And this one is interesting. This one says that a little bit of joy regularly is better for you than big, joyous experiences. This one says that, if you like driving around Christmas lights or having a cup of tea and looking at your Christmas tree, or whatever. It says little bits of joy throughout the day actually make you happier than thinking that one big holiday event is going to be the big deal for the year. So this one really is “More is better.” Smaller more is better than fewer big things. And we have control over that, right? Emphasize frequency.

Seven is EXERCISE.

And eight is … There’s actually research that shows that CHRISTMAS MOVIES [Laughs] You know, the holiday movies actually make us happier. I am addicted to Hallmark right now. [Congregation laughs] I am! I’m man enough to admit it. From about mid-November to mid-January, my DVR is recording every one of the Hallmark movies. I’ve got them down. They only kiss once, and it’s at the end. [Congregation laughs] Right? If you want to go racy, go for Lifetime. But Hallmark is just steady: one kiss at the end, and that’s the whole deal. Right?

And it’s all about this idea that you actually have dominion over your level of joy. Like, if I had a magic wand, I would: I would take away every one of your problems. I would give you the life that you’ve always wanted. But the reality is: even when life’s not perfect, and we learn to be happy right there, we are actually learning how to master our own life.

 And sometimes we think it would be better if we just didn’t have any problems. But sometimes it’s finding God — it’s finding joy — in the midst of the challenges is what allows us to mature spiritually. And I don’t know what all the things you’re having to go through in your life. I don’t. But I know that the power of God in you is greater. And that, when you can find joy in the midst of your walk in life, you really are set free.

Will you join with me in prayer?

And I want you to open your mind, your heart, your soul to the activity of joy. That joy is this sweet, sweet spiritual presence that’s right in the center of your soul. That’s always there. That’s always available to you. That, no matter what’s going on in your life, there’s this sweet joy waiting to be acknowledged. Waiting to be celebrated. Waiting to be called out. And the more that we call out this sweet, sweet joy, I believe that we’re healed. That we’re transformed. And it changes our life for the better.

Tonight I want you to call forth the sweetness of joy in your life. The sweet, holy presence. And feel the power of joy at work in your life. Thank you, God, for joy! Thank you, God, that you designed the world, that joy is a spiritual quality at the basis of everything. Thank you, God, for joy. And so it is. Amen.

Copyright 2021 Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center/Rev. Richard Rogers

CLICK HERE to view Rev. Rogers’ guided meditation during the service.

Location and Contact Information

Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center

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

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