On December 16, 2018, Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed those attending the Community Miracles Center's Sunday Gathering in San Francisco, California. Below is a lightly edited transcription of his talk.
Hello, everybody! It is getting closer to Christmas. Here it is December 16th. Nine days until Christmas. (Woohoo!) I am getting in the mood and getting in the spirit of the holidays. I am making a real effort to do that, because sometimes it takes a little bit of an effort. But it is such a big wonderful thing – Christmas. There is so much happy energy around it. It's easy to get into the flow of that and let it just create a miracle for you.
This week a miracle happened. We got our December issue of Miracles Monthly1 out. (cheering) It was terrific. I didn't know if we were going to be able to get it out in time because we have a brand new computer system in the office. There has been a lot of technical challenges with the new computer system. We had to get it set up, optimized, and ready to run all the software I need to produce Miracles Monthly. I was putting it off then Rev. Dusa Althea said something and I got the guidance, "No." We just needed to go ahead and put it together and it would work. It did! I want to thank David Brunn and Rev. Dusa Althea Rammessirsingh who came in at the last minute on Friday to help put Miracles Monthly together. It is in the mail. It was in the mail during the first half of the month! It's been a long time since we got Miracles Monthly out in the first half of the month and I think that is terrific.
Another interesting thing about it is that it actually has a Christmas article in it. We used to be so far behind with Miracles Monthly that it didn't make any sense to put a Christmas article in because the December issue didn't get to anybody until January or even February on some occasions.
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Through the great help of Rev. Kelly and everybody else, we are now back on track. People will actually get this Christmas article issue of Miracles Monthly before Christmas. It has the transcription of the article that was the talk that I gave last year on Christmas Eve Day. Sunday was on Christmas Eve Day. Be looking for it in the mail as it went out on Friday. It was a miracle that it got out. It is our 382nd issue in 382 months. The first issue of Miracles Monthly was produced in March of 1987 and it has gone forward ever single month, every single every year since then. (This issue you are holding is our hand is our 394th.)
The title of my talk today is "Every Day Can Be Like Christmas!" This is in response to an old Elvis Presley song that I'm sure we all know because it's on about every playlist or collection of classic Christmas songs that there is. This is an album cover, one of the album covers, from Elvis from the 1966 release.
The actual title of the song is "If Every Day Was Like Christmas." The classic line to that song that everyone remembers is "Why can't every day be like Christmas?" He said, and I won't try to sing like Elvis, "Why can't every day be like Christmas? Why can't that feeling go on endlessly? For if every day could be like Christmas, what a wonderful world this would be."
Wonderful sentiment there from Mr. Presley, the King of Rock and Roll as they say. He was simply asking, "Why can't every day be like Christmas?" Maybe it was a rhetorical question. Of course every day can be like Christmas if we choose that it be that way. It's just a matter of choice. I think even in that 1966 song by Elvis Presley that was hinted at. It was a question that was begging an answer but the obvious answer was "Yeah! I guess every day could be like Christmas if we choose it to be that way."
I do want to acknowledge that Christmas for a lot of people has positive associations with it and for some of us, it also might have certain negative associations. Maybe all of us in some way, shape, or form, have some negative associations around Christmas. I was thinking about those and one of those first things I can remember is that when I was about six or seven, we used to go to school after Christmas break. I was in first or maybe second grade. Something like that. The teacher would call up front everyone, kind of like show and tell, to talk about what Santa Clause had brought them for Christmas. This was still considered politically correct at the time. I'm sure it wouldn't be today.
There were kids in the class who came from wealthier families or at least families that had the mindset of giving their kids a lot of gifts at Christmas. Maybe the families weren't all that wealthy. Maybe they went into debt to do it. I don't know. Anyway, there were students in my class who would get up and talk about all the amazing things they had gotten for Christmas, that Santa had brought them for Christmas.
My family was not of that ilk. For one, I don't think we had the money to do as much as what some of the other kids talked about. We weren't poor, but part of it also was that my parents didn't have the mindset to give their children all these gifts. We got a few little things. I remember feeling like "Why didn't Santa give me all those gifts? How come my friend Marty got all those amazing gifts, model racetracks and huge "Girder and Panel Building Sets," and all those other things that Marty got, and Steve got, and how come I didn't?" So when it came to my turn to tell what I got, I embellished. I lied about what I had gotten and embellished it because I felt less than the others. I remember having that feeling, and it was a little bit weird.
I also remember when I was about nine or ten years old, it was one of those times when my father had a big nervous breakdown, and so he was away at the mental hospital for Christmas. Maybe it was my dad's first big nervous breakdown that he had, so he wasn't there for Christmas. One of my aunts and uncles, came over with their kids and we had Christmas with them.
It was really sweet that my mother arranged this. My Aunt Mary and Uncle Lawrence came over with my cousins who were similar in age, but all throughout I was missing my dad. I knew my dad was at the hospital, but in those days with the stigma around mental illness, you couldn't say dad was in the hospital because he had a mental problems. You never mentioned it, but everyone knew. It was the elephant in the room that everyone knew about. Dad is not here for Christmas. Dad is in the hospital. But don't talk about it because he's in the mental hospital. So I remember that.
I also had my own first, very severe, mental breakdown, on a Christmas holiday in 1980. I remember it. I was in the worst possible state I had been in my whole life. I was tremendously nervous, anxious, unable to sleep, and crying a lot of the time. I as thinking that I was going crazy and that my mind would never kick back into normal gear – that somehow this was just it. I didn't know if I could live, or if I wanted to live, with this feeling of incapacity, this inability to think. Anxiety does that. It makes you confused and it is so difficult to focus. It's very hard.
I also remember that I have had several intimate relationships break up around Christmas time. I don't know why that is. I remember one time in particular. I was going through a rough time with a lady friend. The relationship was kind of over. Then it was the Community Miracles Center's Christmas Day gathering and to seal the deal, when I got home from the CMC Christmas service there was a letter taped to the window of the front door to my apartment. It was taped with two big pieces of masking tape. It was a Christmas card. The Christmas card itself was a purchased card. It had a nice Christmas message, but in it was this whole written letter. It said how much of a "schmuck" I was and that the relationship was definitely over – to which I thought "Well, Merry Christmas to you too." I had that experience!
Even this year, last Wednesday – which was just a couple of days ago – I ended a five year relationship with a male intimate of mine. He let me know that he just didn't want to see me anymore. He was just going to let it be that and not even talk about it. I, at least, challenged him on that. I told him a five year relationship needed a more respectable ending. He said, "You are right." So we got together for an hour and it was actually really good. We each said some nice things about the relationship. I'm glad he gave me that. That was a little bit of completion, but again, a relationship has ended around a Christmas holiday for me.
So that is my litany of ghosts of Christmas past. Many of us have had experiences like that. A lot of people have reasons not to like the Christmas holiday, not to associate good things with it. However, like the reading that was read earlier said, "Let no despair darken the joy of Christmas, for the time of Christ is meaningless apart from joy." (OrEd.Tx.15.108)
So "Let no despair darken the joy …" (OrEd.Tx.15.108) that this season can have. That is going to be a choice. If we are going to make every day like Christmas, then we are going to have to make that choice. We're just going to have to choose joy.
I'm challenging everybody. We have nine days until Christmas! For the next nine days, can we choose to not have a rap, a discussion, with ourselves or with others, about the things you think aren't good? Can you have a nine day fast from whatever you think is wrong with your life. It's just nine days! Just talk about the good stuff. It's Christmas. "Let no despair darken the joy of Christmas .…" (OrEd.Tx.15.108) That's what Jesus through A Course in Miracles is asking us to do. So it's Christmas! Let's do it! Let's have a joyful Christmas. Let's just choose it. And if we can choose it for these nine days and get that in our memory, it will make it easier for us to choose it all through the year. Then every day can be just like Christmas because it's a choice. It's a choice to do that.
When we are stuck in something that is really negative, remember A Course in Miracles says, "This Christmas, give the Holy Spirit everything that would hurt you. Let yourself be healed completely that you may join with Him in healing, and let us celebrate our release together by releasing everyone with us." (OrEd.Tx.15.103) If we got something going on that feels negative, what to do with it is to offer it up to the Holy Spirit. Ask for guidance. Ask for guidance on a new way to conceptualize it. Ask for guidance for a new way to think about it then choose what the Holy Spirit gives you. Don't tell the Holy Spirit what that is going to be. Ask for help, offer it up, and then choose that which the Holy Spirit is going to give you.
That's what I did this last week with this relationship that ended. I thought "Okay, this could feel not nice if I choose that, but instead I am going to offer it up to Holy Spirit." I asked for a new perception, and what I really came to understand is that having this relationship end was lightening my life up. It was making something available to come into my life that wasn't available before.
The truth is that the relationship had run its course. It was great and now it was changing form. It needed to change form because that is going to allow the space for something new to come into my life, and that will be a good thing. I can really celebrate the relationship for the five years that it was, and celebrate with anticipation all this new stuff that is going to come into my life. That is what I'm choosing to focus in on. That's me choosing the joy of Christmas. That's me not letting any despair darken my joy of Christmas.
When we do that, when we give everything to the Holy Spirit, when we choose that perception, then we are healed and then we can share that healing. We can release all of our brothers and sisters with us by sharing that healing. That's what we do on the CMC Healing Team. That's what we do with that list of requests that we pray for each day. I think about and I am so grateful for all of those people who asked us for help. It is all of these amazing opportunities to heal myself. I am extremely grateful.
That's what Christmas is all about. Let us celebrate our release together by releasing everyone with us. We get to release all those people on that list. We get to release all those situations up to the Light, up to Holy Spirit's care. We claim that release and we give that release to them.
In another quote that was in the reading that was read it says, "The sign of Christmas is a star, a light in darkness. See it not outside yourself but shining in the Heaven within and accept it as the sign the time of Christ has come." (OrEd.Tx.15.102) The sign of Christmas, the symbol of Christmas, is a star. So yeah, those negative things may be dark but look for the light! There's a star there somewhere. There's a blessing there somewhere. There's a representation of the eternal, infinite light somewhere there. Look for it.
That is the meaning of Christmas and we should do that all the time with everything. We should not hook into despair. We find the light.
On Christmas Day, I'll be right here with all of you and maybe some others celebrating Christmas. For 32 years, the Community Miracles Center has had a Christmas celebration on Christmas Day. I can't think of anywhere that I would like to be that is better than with all of you and my local family and friends. We'll have a wonderful Christmas celebration, a wonderful Community Voices service, and then a wonderful food/potluck celebration afterwards. I'm looking forward to it.
It will be our first Christmas in this new space that we like so much, that we love so much, it has such a good energy to it. I'll be here with all my A Course in Miracles friends and my A Course in Miracles family. We will be in love and joy together. We will be celebrating Christmas together.
Another quotation from the Text, "In this season (Christmas), which celebrates the birth of holiness into this world, join with me, who decided for holiness for you. It is our task together to restore the awareness of magnitude to the host whom God appointed for Himself." (OrEd.Tx.15.29)
What I really like about that quote is that apparently this is Jesus talking to us and he says, "In this season… which celebrates the birth of holiness into this world .…" He doesn't say "It celebrates my birth into this world." People generally think Jesus is the reason for the season so we are celebrating Jesus' birth. However, in this quotation Jesus says "No," we are not really celebrating his birth. We are celebrating the birth of holiness into the world and that holiness is birthed into all of us. The birthday of Christmas that we are really celebrating is ours. It's our "rebirth-day." It's our day to rebirth ourselves solidly in our minds as the Holy Christ.
Now the word "Christmas" itself is just two words put together – it's "Christ" and "mass." So it's the "Christ-mass" or "Christmas." Remember we are A Course in Miracles students so we don't associate Jesus only as the Christ. Jesus became the Christ. We are all becoming – we all are the Christ. Everyone is the Christ at their core. It is just ego stuff that has to be stripped away.
We are all the Christ. This is the mass. "Mass" means celebration, usually a spiritual celebration of some kind, so this "Christ-mass" is the celebration of the birth, the rebirth of the Christ holiness within ourselves.
You know it never was truly about Jesus' birth anyway. It never was Jesus' birthday. Even in ancient times, they knew that Jesus wasn't born on December 25th. Sometimes people talk about how the Jewish people took Chanukah, this minor holiday, and made it into a major holiday to be able to blend in with all their Christian friends. It was made a major holiday basically to give their kids something to celebrate while their Christian friends were celebrating Christmas.
Sometimes people use that idea to talk about how Jewish people are trying to co-opt the Christian holiday in some way. The interesting thing is that is exactly what the Christians did in the second and third century! There was no holiday that Christians were supposed to be celebrating. December 25th was a celebration for Mithra. Mithra was the Sun God. The Sun God Mithra was very popular in ancient Rome at that time during the second and third century. I think it was a Persian god actually.
The worship of the Sun God, Mithra, was the prevalent religion in ancient Rome and not only was it the prevalent religion but it was the accepted religion of the state at that time. The Roman country, the Roman kingdom, embraced Mithraism and there were these big celebrations. Remember these were times when sometimes Christians were oppressed, persecuted, and sometimes put to death. So, if you were a Christian, you might not want to stand out but they did not have too much to celebrate at this time of year. So they found something. They knew Jesus wasn't really born in December, but December 25 became a time to celebrate Jesus' birth because they hadn't been celebrating that.
The early Christians didn't think Jesus' birth was something that should be celebrated. There are even Christian sects today that don't celebrate Christmas because they don't believe we should be celebrating the birth into flesh of God's most Holy Child. However, those Christians back in the second and third century just took it on and turned the Mithrian celebration to the Sun God something that they could participate in too, so they would just be like everyone else. They didn't want to stand out and be different. There were probably pretty good reasons they didn't want to stand out and be different.
One of the reasons the Sun God was being celebrated during that time of year was seasonal. Right around December 25th, that's when the days actually start getting measurably longer. In the northern hemisphere, that's about when it is the first day of winter, usually around December 21st or 22nd. Then daylight starts to increase. Probably in ancient times, they could detect the daylight was increasing around December 25th. Daylight was increasing so the ancients celebrated the Sun God returning. That's how this all got started.
The African-American holiday of Kwanzaa is probably the most authentic holiday for this time of year that there is. Kwanzaa is a harvest festival. It is an appropriate thing to celebrate at that time because the harvest, the growing season, is officially done. Let's celebrate the harvest as the sun returns to prominence. Yet, even African-Americans say they just created this holiday so they could have something to celebrate that was culturally relevant to them. I'd say they probably invented the most authentic thing to be celebrating this time of year. Jesus wasn't born this time of year. Chanukah wasn't a big holiday for the Jewish people either so all this stuff is a jumble and it doesn't really matter. We celebrate because light is returning to our realm and the days are getting longer. That is the true "reason for the season."
Don't forget our friends in the southern hemisphere. The days are really long there now and it's the beginning of summer. I always think this is amusing because we associate Christmas with short days and cold temperatures and my Australian friends associate it with the long hot days summer. It's really interesting.
Anyway, Christmas is our rebirth day. It is the day to celebrate our own return to light. We need to dedicate ourselves to let no darkness change that or challenge that. If we can practice that around this season, we will have built a good Christ-mass like muscle to have the strength to do that throughout the year and have every day be like Christmas.
One other quote from A Course in Miracles. It doesn't say Christmas but it was channeled by Helen right around the Christmas holiday. It is Lesson 303, "The holy Christ is born in me today. Watch with me, angels; watch with me today. Let all God's holy Thoughts surround me and be still with me while Heaven's Son is born." (OrEd.WkBk.303.1) That means that Heaven's Son is born within us. The Christ is reborn within us. We remember that the Christ is who and what we truly are.
We make a dedication. I'm making a dedication that every day can be like Christmas but I have to celebrate that. I have to celebrate that by always looking for the light as it is returning to the sky. All the energy of the holiday, the positive, good energy of the holiday is there to help us. So celebrate this season. Make a dedication for the next nine days to let no despair darken your joy. And if you are around here, local CMC people, please come join me and everyone on Christmas day. It's going to be a hoot! That's it! Thank you very much! (applause) ♥
1 Referencing Miracles Monthly Volume 32, Issue 10 which was mailed in December of 2018
Rev. Tony Ponticello is CMC's 20th minister. He currently (12.19.22) serves as the CMC's Executive Minister and is President of CMC's Board of Directors. He was ordained by the CMC on Oct. 17, 1997.
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the December 2019 (Vol. 33 No. 10) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.