How real is the Christmas story to you?
It may be no more than the tinsel and the tree, the shopping and the presents, the turkey and the treats; in short an opportunity for self indulgence and partying. For millions it is so much more, a time of deep significance, of reflection and spiritual renewal; the remembrance of a promise, angelic visitation and guidance, a merging of the celestial and the terrestrial. The rational mind rushes to dismiss what in the 21st century may seem fanciful and deluded. The story however does not rest on superstitious beliefs but on the science of metaphysics and is worthy of investigation from that position.
If we take a few brief moments to consider the event we are commemorating, the birth of Jesus, we are faced at once with the challenge of belief. For who in the 21st century believes in angelic intercession, prophetic guidance, a pre-ordained, divinely inspired incarnation? The answer is of course that these beliefs are held in one form or another by the majority of humanity. Christianity has 2.1 billion followers, Islam which shares a devotion to Jesus and a belief in his divinely inspired origins has 1.5 billion, these two alone represent half of the 7 billion people alive today. In addition there are 900 million Hindus and the 394 million Chinese who practice their traditional religion, Buddhism has 376 million adherents with Sikhism’s 23 million and Judaeism’s 14 million. These represent only the major world religions, there are many others. Only 16% of the global population state no religion or no religious preference and half of these state a spiritual belief.
From this perspective we might conclude that most of us have a belief in something beyond the physical realm, and that conscious communication exists between the physical and the non physical worlds. Religions simply regulate a specific belief system into an ordered pattern which we can choose to follow for as long as they serve our spiritual growth. All religions are born out of an awareness of divinely inspired events whether personal or impersonal. Initially these are recorded and crystalised as revealed wisdom, eventually to become fossilised as dogma at which point followers begin to seek elsewhere.
Who was Jesus?
The question has been posed for 2,000 years, it is for each of us to find our own answer. For those who accept his life and teaching he is the supreme pattern of spirituality. Spiritual teachers magnetise followers through the positive vibration of the electromagnetic field or aura, creating a resonance which is felt as a magnetic attraction. The greater the attainment the greater the acceleration of that field and the greater the momentum. An Avatar or world teacher carries a momentum of light within the auric field which has been accumulated through countless lives of service. The consciousness radiates light which is not only felt but seen, this is the origin of halos depicted by artists around the head of saints and mystics. The birth of an Avatar is predestined and always a heralded event, preceded by prophecy, acknowledged by astrological configuration and confirmed through celestial intercession.
Avatars incarnate throughout time however at significant points on the cosmic calender, referred to as cusp transitions humanity requires its greatest guides and teachers. These appear and are charted historically. At the culmination of a Cycle of Ages when we approach the threshold of a new Age the supreme guide appears to shepherd us through the doorway. With the birth of Jesus we entered the Piscean Age, the fish becoming the symbol of Christianity; some 2,000 years later we stand on the cusp of the Age of Aquarius.
Cusp energy is volatile in nature, bringing about necessary change during the period of transition, this is being experienced worldwide as a revolution in consciousness. The change comes about by acceptance or is forced upon us for we can not take the old ideas and strategies into the new paradigm. The Arab Spring and the fall of totalitarian regimes coupled with the rise of opposition to the banking system in the West are current examples. The environmental changes now taking place, acknowledged or denied are fundamental to the restructuring of atoms and molecules at the physical level. This is experienced as earth changes, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, flooding, drought etc. On a personal level we experience mental confusion, memory lapse, uncertainty, emotional imbalance and physical disorder. The epidemic of Alzheimer’s disease and mental health problems are a manifestation of unstable fields. At the collective level we observe the seeming insanity of system breakdown, economic collapse and unemployment.
Each of us is free to view Jesus in accordance with our own beliefs or prejudices. For some he is simply a great spiritual teacher, for others he is the pre-ordained Avatar guiding humanity through the closing of an Age. Christianity accords him the role of Saviour the (only) Son of God. In each case we acknowledge his vast spiritual attainment and it is his message which is important. As we celebrate his birth at Christmas it is an opportune moment for reflection and to question. Is the story true? Did the Angel Gabriel announce the birth to Mary? Was Jesus born in Bethlehem and if so why? What of the star and the three kings who are said to have brought their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
I hope you will join me on this blog in a spiritual investigation through metaphysics, the science of religion, to offer an explanation of these and other miraculous events. Excerpts from my book Jesus Chronicles provide a historical backdrop to the esoteric mysteries of the life of Jesus and its profound purpose for us all.
Jesus Chronicles excerpt:
It is with John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus, that our story begins as we see the significance of the life of John to the mission of Jesus, an indication if any were needed of his true spiritual stature. In order to discern the unfolding of the plan it is important to consider that according to sacred literature the births of both Jesus and John were announced prior to conception by angelic visitation, and not simply by an angel but the Archangel Gabriel himself. Since an Archangel is the most elevated among the angelic hierarchy, and all religions agree that Gabriel is God’s supreme messenger, we are left in no doubt as to the importance of these two events. Today a belief in angels may seem to some naive in the extreme, for science reminds us not to believe that which we can not see or prove. The masses have certainly been influenced by science which dismisses the numerous accounts of angelic guides and helpers as wishful thinking, or the legacy of religious traditions, having no relevance in modern times. Opinion polls, however suggest the belief in angels is if anything stronger today than ever. With very little prompting the stories emerge of the personal experience of angelic presence both seen and felt with, on occasion direct communication serving to reassure and encourage in times of greatest need.
We might choose to listen a little more closely to the historical accounts of the people of the day, for the Bible and other sacred texts provide detailed references as might be expected. If we choose to examine the text carefully we receive the historical clues, which even if they cannot be said to validate these important events certainly dates them with a degree of accuracy. The grandeur of the language resonates and paints a picture of the everyday experiences and life of the people. John comes to our attention as we are told that, ‘In the days of Herod, King of Judaea, there was a priest named Zachariah of the division of Abi’ jah and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.’ Here we are given in one brief sentence not simply the names of the two people concerned but their ancestry and the region in which they lived. We know at once that Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron, the first priest of the Jewish people and brother of Moses. Since we already know the time of the reign of King Herod the Great, that he ascended the throne in 31 BC and died in 4 BC, this provides a 33-year period which fixes the events historically.
The story continues and we learn that Zachariah and Elizabeth ‘were both righteous before God’ but also that they were childless as Elizabeth was infertile. As can be imagined they had prayed for a child for many years, which now seemed impossible in view of their age. There are, however, many reasons why we do not always receive what we wish in our own time, and for Zachariah and Elizabeth their time of waiting was about to come to an abrupt and unexpected end with the arrival of an angelic visitor. The Bible tells the story of what perhaps began as an ordinary day for Zachariah as he went about his duties within the temple.
‘Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were outside praying at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zachariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him,‘Do not be afraid Zachariah for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth for he will be great before the Lord.’
The angel continued with the message saying that, ‘He will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah.’ This message gave the soul identity of John for those able to understand that he would be the reincarnation of the revered prophet Elijah, reborn to bring the message to the people once more. Understandably Zachariah was perhaps more concerned at this moment with the practicalities and asked how this conception could come about in view of his and Elizabeth’s great age. The angel answered him, ‘I am Gabriel who stand in the presence of God and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold you will be silent until the day that these things come to pass because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their time.’
Zachariah emerged from the temple to the waiting people who were wondering at the delay. They were amazed to find him unable to speak. He signed to them what had occurred and returned home to his wife. We can imagine the response to this among the people who would no doubt wait with interest to see the outcome of such a bizarre story. They did not have long to wait for shortly after this Elizabeth conceived and for five months she hid herself away, no doubt to come to terms with the miracle.
In the nearby town of Nazareth in Galilee lived Joachim and Anna with their daughter Mary, a cousin of Elizabeth. The couple were of similar age to Elizabeth and Zachariah, and Joachim was also a priest of the temple. Their daughter Mary had been born to them after 20 years of childless marriage. We are told that Anna had prayed for a child and promised God that any child born to them would be offered to serve in the temple in gratitude for their prayers being answered. Mary had served in the temple until the time when the High Priest decreed that all temple virgins were now to marry. Mary refused saying she was the bride of God alone.
A hasty meeting of the temple elders was convened and guidance was sought in the inner sanctum of the temple by the High Priest, who then emerged to inform the people that a sign would be received. When a dove settled upon the staff of one of the most respected elders, a man named Joseph, this was accepted as the sign that Mary should be betrothed to him, and Mary accepted Joseph as her guardian and protector. Before their marriage could take place an even greater miracle would occur and here the two stories converge as the Bible records the event.
‘In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary, and he came to her and said, ‘Hail, O favoured one, the Lord is with you’, but she was greatly troubled at the saying and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her ‘Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.’
As with Zachariah the immediate response was very human and Mary asked how this could come about ‘since I know not a man.’ The angel replied, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you and will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the son of God. And behold your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.’ The response of Mary has echoed down the ages as a pattern of obedience for us all. ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your Word.’ With these few words Mary gave her permission, enabling the divine plan to unfold to its next great step. Her permission was a requirement, for heaven does not force acceptance however great the design might be.
Let us pause for a moment to consider our reaction to these miraculous events. The first is to dismiss them as fallacy or distortion of the truth. We must then ask what purpose would this story serve if it was fabrication; it was certainly never likely to be believed then or now. If, as is suggested by some, the followers of Jesus invented this account in later centuries in an attempt, however well intentioned, to create a divine persona for him, then surely a story could have been invented which would be more credible and convincing. Both stories commenced with a supernatural event involving not only the birth of Jesus but also of John. From that moment the spiral unfolds to reveal the divine plan, confirming at each stage the prophecies written in the preceding centuries.
Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus the prophet Isaiah stated that a virgin would conceive and the child would be called Immannuel who would save his people. The concept of a virgin birth is impossible for most of us and challenging even for believers, the simplest solution is to explain this as mistranslation i.e. that ‘almah’ the word used by Isaiah means not virgin but maiden or young girl. Linguists and scholars have continued to wrestle with this problem however there is now academic agreement among many of the most distinguished scholars that the biblical word almah denotes a virgin in the true sense, it is in fact the only one to denote a virgin. Professor William Beck who researched this matter concluded: “I have searched exhaustively for instances in which ‘almah’ might mean a non virgin or a married woman. There is no passage where almah is not a virgin. Nowhere in the bible or elsewhere does almah mean anything but a virgin.” Robert Dick Wilson a celebrated Hebrew scholar proficient in forty five biblically related languages declared that “the presumption of common law is that every almah is virtuous unless she can be proved not to be.” The Jewish scholar Cyrus H Gordon conceded that “recent archeological evidence confirms that almah means ‘virgin’.”
It is impossible to attempt to understand or accept the story of the incarnation of Jesus from the rational mind, for it has nothing to do with logic or scientific thought and everything to do with celestial order and the listening heart. Faced with such an experience what would any young girl do? Mary quite naturally went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. We are told, ‘Mary arose and journeyed with haste to the hill country to a city of Judah,’ a place called Ein Karem and that when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary ‘the babe leapt in her womb.’ Elizabeth exclaimed, ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’ Today perhaps the most often repeated prayer is the ‘Hail Mary’ fashioned from the greeting Mary received from her heavenly visitor Gabriel and her earthly cousin and friend Elizabeth. ‘Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.’ Three months after the visit of Gabriel to Mary, Elizabeth gave birth to a son and at his naming ceremony she insisted that his name was to be John. At these words Zachariah found his speech suddenly restored, completing the angelic prophecy and signalling the commencement of the earthly mission.
Joseph’s response to Mary’s account of a pregnancy of which we are told he had no part is intriguing. In a time when ‘single mothers’ were yet to be invented Mary’s future did not look secure. The gospel of Matthew tells us that, ‘Joseph being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame resolved to divorce her quietly but as he considered this an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit, she will bear a son and you will call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins.’ When Joseph woke from sleep he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, ‘He took his wife but knew her not until she had born a son and he called his name Jesus.’
The name Jesus is the English translation from the Greek Yesous translated from the Hebrew Aramaic the native tongue of Joseph and Mary. Yeshua is the abbreviated version of Joshua a name which predates the Christian era by several centuries and means deliverer or saviour. Among the many titles accorded to Jesus is ‘Emman-u-el’. The Jewish scripture foretold of a conception through divine agency. ‘Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and his name shall be called Emman-u-el’ which means ‘God is with us’.
Prophecies of past centuries had stated that the Messiah or Savior was to be born in Bethlehem, a small town in Judaea. Since Mary lived in Nazareth some miles away her child could have been expected to have been born there. However, in the time preceding the birth, the emperor decreed a census in order to register those eligible for taxation: ‘In the days of Caesar Augustus a decree went out that all the world should be taxed’. In a very real sense all the world was Roman and despite Mary’s advanced state of pregnancy there was no choice but to obey the decree that the head of each household was to report to his home town to be registered.
Today if we require a copy of a birth or marriage certificate we are still required to apply to the Registrar in the town of our birth. Of course we have the luxury of filling in a form and applying by post. We can only sympathise with the plight of Mary on such a journey as she travelled by donkey to reach Joseph’s home town of Bethlehem. Once more the prophecy was fulfilled and the birth occurs where scripture had stated that it would. ‘And thou Bethlehem in the land of Judaea art not least among the princes of Judah, out of thee shall come a Governor that shall rule my people Israel.’ The name Bethlehem means ‘place of bread’.
The story of the nativity is known to us all, Mary and Joseph are forced to rest in a place described as a stable, the only place available because the town is teeming with visitors. The birth is marked by an angel who appears before shepherds in the fields to proclaim: ‘Be not afraid, for behold I bring you tidings of great joy which will come to all the people, for to you is born this day in the city of David a saviour who is Christ the Lord, and this will be a sign for you. You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger’, and the angel was joined by a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men, with whom he is pleased.’
At Christmas we sing to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the words of the carol ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ a reminder that Bethlehem was also known as ‘the city of David’ a reference to the birth of another king in another time. King David born in the little town of Bethlehem a thousand years before Jesus, united the Jewish tribal peoples to become the nation of Israel and laid the foundations for the temple in Jerusalem in which Jesus himself would one day teach.
On December 22nd 2009 Israeli archeologists announced that they have unearthed for the first time the remains of a 1st century dwelling from the Jewish village of Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus. The excavation site is adjacent to the Church of the Annunciation, built to commemorate the place where according to tradition the Archangel Gabriel revealed to Mary that she would conceive a son by divine intervention. Gabriel is said to have appeared to Mary when she was going to collect water from the well. Interestingly the site has uncovered a two roomed house with a courtyard in which there is ‘a rock hewn cistern into which rainwater was conveyed’ providing support for the historical account. The excavation officially confirms the previously disputed existence of the hamlet of Nazareth to the era in which Jesus lived.