The Participants in Celebrating Christmas
Sun Myung Moon
December 25, 1977
Translator – Sang Kil Han
When we think about Jesus we know that he was not born with a personal purpose, like the average individual, but rather that he came to this earth to save the world. Because of the fall mankind clearly needs a savior if he is to return to God. Since mankind is not united with God everyone must go through Jesus in order to return. God had a purpose in creating the universe and mankind, but because of the fall His purpose was not fulfilled and ever since God has been striving to restore the lost men. He is determined to fulfill that purpose, which could not be accomplished until the time of Christ. We know that the reason God wanted to see Jesus Christ on earth was to restore the families and individuals whom God had lost contact with, even though mankind has never been fully aware that it required tremendous preparation on His part to send the Messiah to the earth.
It was not easy at all for God to prepare fully to send His son. Because man failed to accomplish the original purpose of creation, God had to prepare someone to fulfill that original perfection, someone who could be born in purity. Simply stated, God had to send His son down to earth through the body of a woman, but not just any woman; preparing that woman to be the mother of the Messiah required painstaking work.
Jesus’ mother, Mary, was not quite in the position of having nothing to do with sin. In other words, she was unable to obtain the level which existed before the fall took place; she was elevated, yet not quite to the point of having nothing to do with sin. In order to compensate for that, Mary had to take the firm position of loving God more than anyone else, even to an absolute, impossible degree. Also she needed to establish the position of doing something to cut the ties with the fall. These two conditions were essential.
Once the necessary conditions were met, Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb and could be recognized as having no ties with the fallen act. It is difficult to grasp, but Jesus was born way beyond the realm of the fall and had nothing to do with sin. Once Jesus was born, God must have been happier with him than He was with His original creation. At the same time, however, Jesus’ birth could not wipe away the painful reality of all the fallen people. God could not ignore or forget the fallen world. Before the fall only God exercised dominion over Adam and Eve and there was no such thing as Satan; however, nowadays even many devout people wrongly believe that Satan existed before man was created. This was certainly not so.
What Was the Mission of Mary and Joseph?
God was not the only one in a position to try to exercise dominion over Jesus. Satan came into existence at the moment the fall took place, and certainly Satan continued to pursue man, especially a man like Jesus who could fulfill God’s purpose of creation. Satan was very active and persistently tried to take Mary to his side. Mary knew that she was in the middle of an important situation, but she did not understand it fully. Perhaps she had a hint of her responsibility but Mary did not completely know her situation at that time.
What about Joseph, Mary’s husband? He did not fully know the situation either, nor any other close relatives, even Jesus’ brothers and sisters. What about Jesus, then, who was born in these circumstances? Jesus had to have understood each person’s responsibility because otherwise he would not have been able to clarify the situation. Did Jesus know all of this the moment he was born, or did Jesus gradually realize it while he was growing up?
It was God’s intention that everyone around Jesus, including Mary and Joseph and all the relatives, nurture Jesus and protect him from Satan so that he could fully develop himself and his ideals before finally undertaking his mission. They should have devoted all of their possessions, energy and heart towards protecting Jesus so that the will of God through him would be meticulously protected from possible invasion by Satan. The sole purpose of their lives should have been to protect Jesus while he was preparing for his mission.
This was the situation from God’s point of view, but who thought about that kind of thing at the time? Certainly all indications-biblical and historical- show that they did not understand what they were to do for Jesus. Since that time, even religious people have had only a slight idea. The traditional attitude, for instance, has been one of praise for the way in which the Messiah was born in a stable and laid in a manger on straw. How could mankind be proud of the son of God being born in a stable?
God prepared the Jews to receive and assist Jesus, but did even those people really have the slightest idea of who Jesus was and what they were supposed to do in order to help him fulfill the will of God? They did not know a thing. Was there anyone who understood Jesus’ mission as an individual, his mission to restore his family and the nation around his family and finally the whole world? It is very clear that there was no one, either secular or religious, who helped Jesus accomplish his mission.
If there was anyone at all who understood Jesus and helped him it was God Himself. God knew, but no one else except Jesus understood his responsibility. Was God contented and happy while looking down on His son born in a stable, crying in the cold, with no one around him knowing what they were supposed to do and with Satan searching intently to find some way to stop him? Could God feel easy in that situation?
Let us go back and think in a little more detail about what the immediate environment was. Mary was Jesus’ mother but Joseph was not his father. When Joseph married her, Mary was pregnant and Joseph knew that it was not his child she carried. He was a righteous man so he married her, but was Joseph rejoicing each day because his wife had a godly son? Or was Joseph always angry and wondering whose child it was anyway?
Joseph did not know anything except what he was told in one short dream. Joseph was a righteous man so he married Mary as he was instructed to do by an angel, but how long do you think Joseph could feel righteous and happy about it? Don’t you think he kept on wondering and repeatedly asking her, “Whose baby is it?” Could Mary just casually answer, “Oh, it was conceived by the Holy Spirit, so you should be happy”? Even if Mary had truthfully said that, do you think that Joseph would have responded with joy?
Be realistic and imagine yourself in that position. Suppose everyone respects you as a very generous man, but you have to marry some woman who is pregnant with someone else’s child. If she told you that it was conceived by the Holy Spirit then perhaps one day you would not have resentment, but could you still feel generous for all the years to come. You are a good sample of people to ask this question of because as Unification members you have a more worldwide point of view. If one of you were in Joseph’s situation, hearing gossip and criticism all around, would you feel very happy and content with Mary? Would you be glad to serve the child once he was born and sacrifice to protect him from evil?
It is likely that Joseph asked Mary many times whose baby she carried because he was curious and because he tried to understand. But remember that at that time an unmarried woman who became pregnant was required by Mosaic law to be stoned for committing adultery. At first Joseph probably thought he would understand, but in the long run he could not accept the situation. Do you think that their relationship was happy for very long? It is probable that they quarreled and distrusted each other rather than fully understanding and cooperating in love in the sight of God.
Once Jesus was born the rift became even greater and Joseph looked upon Jesus as something which was not wanted and which had ruined his relationship with Mary. This was the realistic situation that existed all through Jesus’ life. Because of their parents’ attitude towards Jesus, even his own brothers and sisters did not respect him, much less think that he was the son of God. They even treated him worse than they would other children because he was different.
Whenever parents respect a child then his brothers and sisters will also, but when the father and mother are indifferent or hostile then the chances are that the other children will treat him the same way. The Bible records that Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem for Passover, and when they couldn’t find him after the celebrations they left for home without him, only coming back to look for him after three days. Jesus was very indignant and condemned them. Even in an average family can you imagine parents leaving a child of Jesus’ age all alone in a crowded city? We can safely assume that Mary and Joseph quarreled over this. Joseph probably said, “Forget about it. Let’s leave,” and Mary had to go along. Because Mary was very insistent, however, and Joseph knew that Mary would not yield, they turned back again to find Jesus and bring him home with them. This is a far more logical and consistent understanding than any other interpretation.
As a Child, Jesus Was Caught in an Unbearable Situation
While Mary was pregnant and while the disharmony between Mary and Joseph continued do you think that rumors went around the whole neighborhood about how they often fought? In a neighborhood as close together as an ancient Jewish village the chances are that everybody knew that Mary and Joseph did not get along together for some reason. The high priest knew everything about his community, for instance. Zachariah, the high priest at the time, and all the relatives at least knew and disapproved of the situation.
Joseph’s family knew that Jesus was not really one of them and even though they might not have discussed it in front of him, Jesus was not respected. Even now in a society as permissive as America’s, if a girl has a baby whose father is not known then there is some talk about it. An even harsher situation prevailed in Jesus’ time, when an unwed mother was punishable by death. Certainly there would be cruel gossip. Could Jesus grow up happy and contented like an average child under these circumstances, or can you imagine that Jesus was caught in an unbearable situation? Every child that Jesus played with certainly must have made comments about things heard from his parents. Jesus just could not have had normal relationships with other children.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that Jesus was born to save all of the people. He was the only begotten son of God and his object of salvation was exactly the people who ostracized him. The way the king of kings was treated and understood by the people around him was vastly different from God’s ideal for Jesus.
Did anyone around Jesus try to defend him? There is not one account which records such dedication. Jesus was mistreated and persecuted by his own family because they completely lacked any understanding of who he was. Even without his being king of kings and the son of God, was he even treated as well as the son of a common family?
Common sense would say that even on holidays or special occasions no one made special clothing or gifts and presented them to Jesus. The brothers and sisters who were more favored by Joseph might have gotten something, but even Mary was reluctant to anger Joseph by giving anything to Jesus. Of course Jesus must have wanted to wear the special clothes and eat the special food of that time, like we all do, but it was not possible to acquire it. Was Jesus free to do whatever he pleased? Circumstances always blocked him from pursuing whatever he wanted or needed to do.
What Kind of Person Could Have Consoled Jesus?
Jesus definitely knew that he was special. He heard what the common people thought about him but his own self-image was completely different. From the time he was small he could never talk openly in his own way. The only consolation he could seek was in communication with God, and he spent most of his time praying to God and seeking His guidance. As a result Jesus became stronger and stronger in this period and circumstances compelled him in only one direction-toward God and the realization of His ideal. He knew that mankind’s thinking was vastly different from God’s and that it had to be corrected; he also knew that society understood nothing about what God wanted and that he himself would have to change it. Because of his adverse circumstances Jesus had to really pray hard to God, to the point where God could talk to him and teach him what he would need for his future work.
Do I imagine these things and then tell you, or do I know the facts? Although most people do not believe this, I have seen this sorrowful situation myself. All of you can readily accept that what I have said is true, but there is even far deeper significance than what has been explained. Under these circumstances, do you think that during Jesus’ years on earth anyone celebrated his birthday with real joy? As Jesus grew older and knew more and more clearly who God was and what his own mission was supposed to be, his heart became heavier and more agonized and his environment became more difficult to tolerate.
The most precious friend for Jesus would have been the person who came to him, not with many presents or words of congratulations, but rather with a tearful heart to console him in his situation and to discuss with him what he was going to do in the future. If someone like this had been there then Jesus would have been far happier than if someone had come with presents. That person could have been one of his own brothers or sisters. Knowing his hidden suffering, he or she could have brought just a small piece of cake wrapped in a handkerchief to give to Jesus on his birthday, saying, “The people don’t understand you, but I will try to help you. You must not be disappointed.” Jesus certainly would have welcomed such a person far more than someone who came with a fancy present for him and then went away. If there had been one such brother or sister in Jesus’ family then Jesus would have remembered him for a long time arid would have spoken about it.
When Jesus felt despondent he had to pray to God more intensely, and being moved by Jesus’ fervent prayer, God would have taught him, “You will later become great in this way and rise to this particular position.” That’s the way it was supposed to be anyway, with God telling him many things in detail. Because of these experiences Jesus knew that God was his best friend and the one closest to him, quite unlike Joseph or Mary, or even his brothers and sisters.
Jesus was very serious in thinking about the national situation at that time, praying about how to change things. He would have asked God time and time again, “Father, when will the Messiah appear on this earth to correct the situation?” Perhaps he was told many times by God, “You are the Messiah. You are the one who has to do it.” Do you think that hearing God tell him once was sufficient for Jesus to believe it year after year? Certainly he would have asked more than once, wanting some other answer.
We can safely imagine that he was told in detail many experiences which he could expect to happen, such as, “Expect someone to come visit you tomorrow. At a certain time such and such a thing will happen and you must do this and avoid this.” He was instructed in this detail by God about many things.
It is very apparent that Jesus had to train himself in this way internally. Wherever he looked in the physical world there wasn’t one opening of understanding so he had to strengthen and re-determine himself and prepare for his mission. Jesus knew what God had in His plan for himself, the Israelites and all the rest of mankind. God is spirit, but by having a body Jesus could understand the existing situation of man’s world, and he knew that he had to be the central point to bring that world back to God. Do you think that he wanted very much for someone to show some understanding, or that he wanted to hear even one word of love spoken to him, knowing that without him no one had any chance to return to God? Jesus yearned to hear the high priest say, “We must prepare ourselves to receive you, because that’s the only way for us to return to God.”
Do we know of anyone who understood and said this? The people not only did not come near him, they even opposed him directly. Jesus know they were on the road straight to hell and he was absolutely desperate to make the people believe in him. To the last, the people did not understand him and as a result Jesus was crucified. When Jesus died on the cross he was unspeakably despondent. Jesus was absolutely desperate at the people’s lack of understanding, but how would God have felt at losing him from the earth, and at having to prepare once more for thousands of years to send the Messiah?
God depended upon Jesus to fulfill this mission but should God have blessed the people anyway when Jesus was denied and crucified instead? When Jesus was in deepest anguish on the cross God’s feeling was exactly the same. There could not be any difference whatever. When you are really indignant and absolutely furious inside, can you even think about giving happiness or blessing? When someone comes near you at such a time do you feel like being generous and open-hearted? This is exactly the feeling God had. There was absolutely no chance of His giving any promise of salvation at that time.
With this understanding we know how much the traditional belief of Christian churches causes deep pain to God. The most devout Christians have taught worldwide that God had prepared for 4,000 years for Jesus to come to die, and that Christians should be happy that he died to give salvation. When God hears this do you think He would feel like blessing them?
In this desperate situation Jesus realized the significance of what had happened and he said, “I will come back again.” Not a soul has understood his true meaning. It is not possible for Jesus to come again on the clouds in a happy way and magically restore the world, yet everyone believes that that is what will happen. When millions of people sing hymns and exchange presents and wish each other good fortune on his birthday, could Jesus possibly be happy and wish them well? All the festivity only serves as a painful reminder to Jesus of the failure of half of his mission, which only he could fulfill here.
The True Celebration of Christmas
Is there anyone who can celebrate Jesus’ birthday in its true meaning, understanding his situation and what he was supposed to do? There are millions of people who celebrate Christmas because everyone else does, but is there even one individual who knows Jesus’ situation and then commemorates the day? The only celebration which would have meaning for him would come when one who suffers more than Jesus and is more despondent than Jesus himself comes to Jesus, saying, “I have a difficult situation but your situation is much worse. I would like to celebrate your birthday nevertheless. Forget about your sorrow for a moment.” If there was someone like that then Jesus would burst into tears and momentarily celebrate his birthday.
There are many people here in this auditorium but what kind of people are you and what are you supposed to do? Shall we get many good things by using Jesus’ name, or shall we help Jesus, or shall we just follow Jesus? What is this Church designed by God to do? What is the purpose of sacrificing ourselves? By sacrificing we are to fulfill the idea which Jesus pursued and thus bring everyone into unity.
When we become one with Jesus and he is happy then we will be happy, but when he is not happy and things are difficult will we avoid him for awhile? Are we going to be one with him at the time of the cross or before, or even earlier, when God planned the dispensation? Are we going to be the group whose tradition and vision begin even before the time of Jesus with the ideal of God, when there was no Satan but only perfect unity in every way? Can we start from there and go through difficulty, participating in God’s glory all along? Are we going to be one with the Christ from that time on until the realization of God’s ideal on earth?
At Jesus’ time the people did not understand him, but today everyone must understand this realm of heart. If someone in the most lowly servant position had come to console Jesus and talk with him, Jesus would have felt much closer to him than to all the other brilliant people at that time. Because that person’s heart would have been closer to Jesus’ he would have been close in every other way as well. Jesus wouldn’t have stopped that person from coming just because he wasn’t in the same noble position as Jesus; he would have embraced him right there and burst into tears. That is the realm of heart, the standard of value, which surpasses any national or social boundary and which can link people forever.
Can people feel complete oneness simply by sitting around a plush banquet table eating steaks and good food? It is the really desperate situation where everybody sheds tears together that heartfelt unity with Christ is realized. Why would you prefer the second setting? You feel drawn that way, not because you like struggle, but because Jesus feels that way and God feels that way. The only reason why everyone must also do such a thing is in order to share in whatever God has for you.
This is also true for me. People would prefer many other things, but even though the family may drift away or the society may not give a ready welcome or the world may not understand, we cannot abandon the way which God has opened for mankind and the Messiah, no matter how difficult it is. This is why I am doing what I am doing. The sole purpose for my being here is to have you follow exactly the same path as God Himself. Do you agree with that? Sometimes it is very difficult but this is the only sure way to become a friend of Jesus and of God Himself.
We chose the same way Jesus did and in that way we can understand and participate in the friendship of God. In that process each person will be chased away by his own physical family and society, but still he must follow God and Christ the same way Jesus did. This is the only true religious way and the Unification Church finds itself in that very situation.
Each one must think about whether he is going to cling to the dying Jesus on the cross or to the living Jesus before the cross, or to God’s ideal even before Jesus was born. If anyone is clinging to that original time and becoming one with God, then after the birth of Jesus and his activities on earth he must be one with him until the fulfillment of the dispensation. If a woman is going to follow Jesus she must follow with the heart of Mary and relieve that situation of 2,000 years ago by trying to be the best possible Mary. If it is a man then he should try to serve Christ in the position of Joseph, being determined to protect Jesus from any possible invasion and serving him until the fulfillment of the mission.
To follow Christ a person must also follow like Jesus’ own brothers and sisters, who were meant to understand him completely and love him and do the most difficult things for him. By doing this and becoming one with Jesus, Jesus and God Himself will never be able to say in the future, “I don’t know you.” Those who are following Christ as a real friend can console him, going over the path of thorns in this world and feeling fury at all the injustice done to him. Such people can say, “They don’t understand. I will compensate for their mistakes so don’t blame them or be agonized at the situation. Try to forget about them and let’s do it together.” If the Messiah had had such followers then certainly God would have been able to come and liberate the rest of the dispensation. If someone came to Jesus to express regret at his difficulties then Jesus would answer, “Well, it is difficult but I can bear it. But how about you? Your path is more difficult.” Such a flow of heart is the foundation for heaven on earth.
How Can We Soothe the Turmoil in God’s Heart and Jesus’ Heart?
How should I nurture the Unification Church and in what direction should I lead it? Our purpose is not to become happy and comfortable together but rather to persevere in hardship; the job has to be done and we will even search for the most difficulty to go over in order to console Jesus and God along this way. How can you say that is good? That is the only way to soothe the turmoil in the hearts of Jesus and God Himself. We have to straighten out the regrets and the incredibly oppressed feeling, the furious sense of frustration that God has and Christ has. Without untangling that, there is no chance for mankind to be blessed or to come anywhere near the concept of blessing.
If we avail ourselves like that then everyone can go back before the time of the cross and be the real friends of Jesus, be the best Mary and the best Joseph. Everyone can become completely one with Jesus in its truest sense. Even though you live 2,000 years after Jesus did, you can be friends with him because love is not bound by time and space. When you are persecuted in the street and spit at, are you persevering for yourself or because of mankind and God? Because we can go beyond time and even space to become completely one in dove and heart, even before the time of history, we can persevere that way.
When Satan tries to condemn and persecute Christ himself, each person ought to be very strong and resolve, “For me there is no Satan and no doubt. There is no such thing as a second thought about protecting and serving Jesus himself on earth.” At Jesus’ time the best follower would have thought only of the nation that they were involved in, but now we will go even beyond our own nation and work for the sake of the world. We have to be proud of living that way.
We will pick up where Jesus left off and fulfill the salvation of the nation and then go beyond that to the world. Jesus was opposed by only one race and one religious denomination, but in the course of saving the world we are persecuted by many races and many denominations. We will surely face that opposition so we have to feel supremely confident. Why should we choose that course? We do it so that together with Christ we can inherit his work for the sake of the country and the world. First we inherit the work of Jesus who fought for his country’s salvation and after that we will inherit the work for the world at the Second Advent. Our suffering now is much beyond the national level; not only all denominations will come against us but all religions will persecute us, yet we will still cross over it. Even Jesus did not experience that. This is the first such encounter even for God.
We must determine that by going through this difficulty we will surely become strong leaders, training ourselves in the position of Jesus’ twelve disciples. When the disciples met a difficult situation with Jesus they all fled. There was no trace of them when Jesus confronted his most difficult time. Of course we must be better than any disciples at that time to stand strong and protect our Lord. If we do that then God will have a strong grasp on us and won’t let go. That means we are in safe hands and no matter who opposes us-the communists or the whole free world-could God be really disheartened?
The one who is persecuted can only get nearer and nearer to God. In other words, there is nothing to lose and inevitably you can be the closest of all to God. This is exactly what happens when anyone perseveres to his real breaking point. Then God Himself appears to teach him in detail. Anyone can experience His miracles 24 hours a day.
Though we are scorned we are happy, fortunate people. Sometimes you don’t eat well and you might not get much sleep; your parents even try to kidnap you but still you are fortunate. Even with that kind of persecution we have stayed on the side of God. This is a historic achievement and God will give you His highest praise. At the same time God will pour out His fullest love to you. That is condition enough.
We can call ourselves the fortunate ones since we love God to that extent and since God loves us in return; in the end love reaches everywhere, dominating everything. In fact, we can become like God Himself because of love. Because we love Him that much and He loves us that much, we are the same as God. After all, we are the sons of God; the only difference is that He is subject and we are object.
My topic is “The Participants in Celebrating Christmas.” The world is celebrating Christmas in its best way and we are celebrating Christmas in our way. Let us celebrate this Christmas in the truest sense, understanding the true situation of Jesus and the meaning of his second coming, devoting all our heart and love to becoming one in love with God. Then we are the participants in all that belongs to God.
No matter how shabby the clothing we wear and no matter how unworthy we may be, even if we don’t have any presents to bring, if we devote our heart for that cause, we can be the true participants in this Christmas. The world is celebrating Christmas but not in the true way and God does not find any meaning at all in that celebration. Our numbers are small but our hearts are intense in the desire to be one with Christ.
I wonder whether members were thinking of all the joyous times at Christmases in their past as they walked in here this morning, and whether they didn’t wish they could relive those happy moments instead of celebrating Christmas so seriously in the Unification Church. After this service each one must go out in the rain to continue his daily chores, and you might have wondered why you aren’t taking the day off.
We must remind ourselves that this is the saddest day of all for God and Jesus. Jesus never had one real birthday celebration when he was on earth, and it will be immensely meaningful to him to see the many people who are gathered here to celebrate in the true sense. Wouldn’t you be grateful to participate in the true Christmas celebration? Do you think Jesus would be happy to see that the people gathered here have had tears and sweat staining their faces, and have gone without beautiful clothes to do God’s work? Do you feel confident that Jesus would be deeply moved to see you gathered here to sing Christmas songs and wish him happy birthday?
You must know for sure that you are on the road to becoming sons and daughters of God, to whom even God and Jesus can be thankful for what you have done. Such people are the most beautiful women in the world and the greatest men. Jesus would certainly pick a wife from such a group, completely disregarding anyone else’s beautiful clothing or jewelry or education. Would you be a participant in celebrating Christmas in its truest sense? Do you celebrate with a feeling of complaint hidden in your pocket? Those of you who are determined that for the rest of your lives you will stay close to the path of Christ, embracing the past and present and the future until God’s will is fulfilled, raise your hands. God bless you. Let us pray.