"And the stars, twinkling in the night air,
Become beacons leading to a babe in a manger, or a cave,
Or other humble place, in east or west,
A child in whom the human race was born anew.
And simple shepherds, so close to the earth,
Become heroes in a great miracle play,
Finding the new born babe before the great kings of the East.
And angels, those celestial non-creatures, made heavenly music,
To stir the heart for centuries.
(Oh we know it didn’t happen that way
But one must admit, it is very poetic.)
Only a myth, you say?
Of course only a myth,
The stuff of which dreams are made.
The fabrications of which joys are made.
Only a myth.
Yet those myths link us with those we never knew,
And will link us with those we will never know.
They will speak a poetry irresistible.
For we are sustained not by bread alone,
Or by reason,
Or by fact,
Or by the daily hum drum,
So much as we are by the poetry of human imagination,
Which paints pictures where before there were only colours,
Which forms songs where before there were only sounds,
Which writes stories where before there were only words.
Someone needs to be our story teller,
For human life is more than a bleak passage
Between the portals of life and death.
It is a story, a myth
It is the myth of Jesus, or the Buddha or Confucius.
Heroes of the race.
Or is it the story of a life,
Yours or mine, a story with a beginning and ending
And all that goes between of despair and hope."
One symbol that really speaks to me is that of the star. The star that drew the “wise men” out of the comfort of their homeland to seek out this baby who they believed was the King of the Jews. They travelled from the east and began to ask where this child was to be found, as they wished to pay homage to him. They came to Herod who learnt from them the exact time when the star had appeared and told them to go and seek out the child and to let him know where he was so that he could pay him homage too. They continued their journey and followed the star; they followed the guiding star, from afar. Finally they reached the manger and were overwhelmed with joy at the presence that they found there. They offered the child gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh and then having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod they left for home by a different route.
Now some will say that this myth has nothing to say today. Some will choose to tear the story to pieces and show us all the historical inaccuracies. That it’s just some stupid and meaningless fantasy. They may say it’s irrational, give me some reasoned facts...they may even begin to sing...
"God rest ye, Unitarians,
Let nothing you dismay!
Remember that there is no proof
There was a Christmas Day
For Christmas really started as
A pagan holiday.
Oh, glad tidings of reason and fact,
Reason and fact.
Glad tidings of reason and fact.
No wise men travelled from the East,
The journey's far too long.
There were no shepherds in the fields,
The time of year's all wrong;
We don't believe in angels;
That rules out the angels' song!
We're too sophisticated to
Believe in tales so old.
We know that human avarice means
Too much bought and sold;
We only celebrate because
This season is so cold.
By Rev Chris Raible (Sung to same tune as the Carol "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"
There is more to the Christmas mythos than the historical accuracy or inaccuracy of the Biblical accounts. In fact to get lost in detail of what did or didn’t actually happen is to miss the whole point of the story.
Joseph Campbell taught that myths such as the nativity story are actually metaphors for human life. That they are eternal and universal tales that can teach us about our lives right here right now. He believed that by understanding these mysteries we can begin to understand who we truly are and what life is all about.
So what can the wise men mythos teach we who live today? Well I believe that they can teach us an awful lot. To me the wise men are archetypes of something that Campbell himself spoke of. Remember that they observed a star and in seeing it they began their journey, one of transformation. You see what they saw was more than just merely a star it was a vision of something more and it was this that drew them beyond themselves that compelled them to travel afar. The wise men were following their bliss.
But what on earth can that possibly mean, to “follow your bliss?”
Following your bliss is about saying yes to this call and beginning your own heroic journey. In doing so synchronicity will seemingly be abound and luck will follow. By following your bliss you seemingly become guided by something more than yourself. This is what Campbell observed and it has certainly been my experience, at least for the last ten years.
Following your bliss though is not an easy ride, quite the opposite actually. Campbell observed that like all heroic journeys there are tests and trials along the way. There are monsters and dragon to slay on the journey although most of these are the ones we carry with us. It is our fear of the adventure that is our greatest enemy.
The Nativity story has so much to offer we who live today. But please do not get lost in the metaphor in arguments about whether or not these things could have actually happened. Mythos is not really about this. Instead it teaches us something personal and yet universal, something that can inspire we who live today. There is so much in the story of the Magi being drawn out of themselves and following that star to that humble place. We too can follow our star and it can inspire we who live today. I believe, if we seek it and if we prepare ourselves for it we can find our star and that it can draw us out of ourselves and send us forth on our journey. Maybe we too can begin to follow our bliss and inspire others to do likewise. Maybe we too can become stars that lead others to journey afar.
And isn’t this what Advent is all about? Isn’t it about preparing ourselves for the coming of new light and new hope.
Let us follow our bliss.