What are we to make of the passage in Matthew about the three wise men who followed the star to the baby Jesus in the manger? We know individual stars don't move like that, low across the sky. What's more, a star can't serve to locate a single town like Bethlehem, let alone some manger on a back street in that town. We need to find a way to tell the same story in a way that makes sense to us today so it can strike deep again into the fabric of our lived religious experience, releasing into our daily lives the potentiality contained within the story to deepen our capacity for that experience and render it more authentically available to us.
For the last few years now, I have been keeping a spiritual journal. I began it at a point when my life unexpectedly fell apart and the writing I was then pursuing came to a dead stop. After a few months of reeling with the whirlwind changes, I got up one morning, went over to the computer, and started writing. I just wrote what came. I didn't even write it. I sat there and typed. It wrote itself. From that day till this I have, with very few exceptions, done the same thing every single morning, first thing. After having done this for a year or two, the practice deepened itself further. Subsequent to making my morning's entry each day, I turned back to the entry I had made one year earlier and read it for the first time. I read what I myself had written. I was shocked and amazed.
To see the smaller moves of the spirit in our lives - to be able to see them when they kick into operation - this is a tremendously important thing. I think all the important things are very simple like this, and very natural, and operate in all of us; only that we suppose what we are aiming at is some high explosion of lights and moods, such as would seem to be described in the ancient literature of Zen or Ch'an, or, for that matter, the scriptures of Judaism or Christianity. From going back and reading what I myself have written in my own journal, I see, to my great surprise, the same things as are described in that ancient literature - such that I can know that what the authors of those texts were experiencing in times of old and writing about is nothing different from what I am also experiencing in my day to day existence and recording in my journal.
Yesterday I meditated for 45 minutes. Afterwards, I felt very spacious and peaceful - grateful for the space and the peace that seemed to envelop me and to have descended upon me unawares. I hadn't been attempting to be peaceful. I hadn't been trying to attain any state other than the one I was already in. I just sat there, attending full-mindedly to meditating. The peace came on its own, as an after-effect - surprising me. It seemed so small and so faint. I walked out into the kitchen, and my eyes fell upon a yoga brochure that had come in the mail. On it was a quote from Swami Sivananda:
"Mysterious is this peace. If you enjoy this peace, you will be contributing peace to the whole world. Realize the peace that passeth all understanding and be free."
This peace I'd felt wasn't a small thing. It was a big thing.
What seems little isn't little. It only seems so when looked at from the perspective that isn't according it any importance. That Jesus was born in a manger in the miracle story of his birth is saying this. The greatest, when born, will seem to the everyday pedestrian consciousness to be small, worthless and inconsequential. And yet the wise know. The wise attend upon these seeming insignificances that constitute the birth of a higher way of being in us.
It is incumbent upon those of us who follow the spiritual path to be wise. That is to say, to respect and pay due reverence to those aspects of our experience that in the eyes of the world would seem small and insignificant. Just to notice these is supremely important. To notice and to draw back, if only for an instant, in awe or gratitude is to acknowledge and indeed to participate, in the only way we can, in the dissolution of our little self before the advent of something so much greater, so much more majestic, and so much more beautiful than any of the kinds of rewards the world can offer us.
Not to notice is to miss the divine. To notice is divine, as anyone who has had these experiences can attest. No matter how small they may seem to be, if we can manage to stop for only the instant required for them to penetrate us to the very core of our being, or penetrate us from out of the core of our being, whichever may be the case, and if we can somehow get ourselves and all of our ideas out of the way of this beautiful ray, this divine illumination, for just that small instant that it takes to be wafted out of time itself - then we can see for ourselves with new eyes what is small and what isn't, what is beautiful and what isn't, what is real and what isn't. We are changed, transformed. Made new. Reborn.
This is how Jesus comes into the world. Then, and now.
It is happening to each and every one of us so many times every day. It behooves us to listen, pay attention. It is our own story. To hear it all we have to do is be wise enough to forget about Herod and the big things of this world, the things that are made to seem important by this kind of a world and turn our attention instead towards what matters.