December 18, 1996 - Christmas Stories

(This tape has been corrected by Barbara and Aaron)

Barbara: Tonight is our annual Christmas stories night. We're going to start a little bit differently tonight, by popular demand. I am simply going to read an excerpt from the December 19, 1990 transcript of Aaron's memory of Jesus' birth. Later, if you wish, he'll expand a bit on that. I'm not going to record this.

(transcript is read off-tape)

Aaron: Good evening, and my love to you all. I am Aaron. It brings me much joy to gather together with all of you and share my memories of this beloved teacher.

Each year I have tried to focus on a different aspect of what my knowing of him meant to me, the ways I experienced him. I have tried to share certain large and small moments, to try as best I can to offer you not the concept of him but my own experience of him.

One of the most profound lessons that grew out of my knowing of him was that of the meaning of generosity and the practice of it. There are different levels of generosity. There is that generosity that gives of itself from a giver. I do not mean specifically that there is pride or ego in the giver, but there is still a sense of one who gives and one who receives. He did not give that way. He gave in such a way that there was little awareness of a giver. He was the instrument through which the love and abundance of the universe flowed, and he gave in such joyful and skillful ways that often you were not aware of what you had received until after. He did not give just in material ways. Perhaps the greatest gift he gave me was faith.

I would ask you here to move into your imaginations. Imagine yourself standing, warmly clothed and well-fed, at the back of a large truck. All around you are people gathered, people who are wearing rags, people who clearly are very, very hungry. They are not a rowdy mob but a very humble and respectful group. I want you to imagine how it would feel to have a very hungry child approach and have the joy of handing that child an orange. You do not reach into the back of the truck and select. Something is placed in your hands and you pass it on. This is your job, just to pass it on. You did not create it, you do not choose it; you take it into your hands, let it flow through you, and hand it out.

Here is an old man in rags, shivering. A blanket comes to you and you hand it to him. Your eyes meet. There is no shame on his face in taking it because you are not the giver, but merely the instrument through which it flows. Here is a mother with her small children and you receive a fully cooked turkey to hand on to her. An adolescent in rags takes a sweater from you. Another mother appears, to whom you deliver a large bolt of warm fabric, that she may make some clothes for her children.

I ask here that you do this as a meditation and really feel the joy in being part of the flow of the abundance of the universe, of seeing the suffering at least temporarily alleviated.

It's very easy not to be someone giving but simply a channel through which it flows because you are warm, fed, and comfortable, and the crowd is not at all unruly, but come up one at a time to receive the gifts. Thus, there is little to call up “selfhood.”

Now let us change the image. This truck has arrived but you are not on it, but rather you are on the ground. The crowd is pressing in a bit more, not unruly but anxious. You are part of that crowd, also in rags, also hungry. As the truck stops and the back is open, someone from the truck points to you, “Come up here!” Your heart lights up thinking, Ah, I'm going to receive some food, or something warm to put on. He hands you a package, a blanket, and for the moment, you think it's for you, but he indicates that you're to give it to another. Here is the orange, no it's not for you, give it to the child.

Hour after hour you're asked to do this. You are still cold; you are still hungry. The crowd's anxiety has abated and again they are grateful and not rowdy. But your anxiety has not abated. You see that the blankets are all gone. What's left in there? You look over your shoulder. “Are my needs going to be met?”

Can you see how it is to feel such fear? I'm going to be quiet a minute and ask you to work with this image ... .

That one who I asked you to imagine yourself to be, chosen from the crowd to hand out all this merchandise, some would say he is being generous. And certainly there is a generosity. He or she could have just grabbed the item that he or she desired and rushed off. He or she has been willing to serve all the others. But there's fear.

Because of that fear there is a giver and a recipient. Because the fear shines in your eyes as you hand that last blanket out, the one who receives it does so with shame. He looks in your eyes and reads your fear. He received what you wanted.

Now imagine in this moment of your fear as you hand the last blanket to an old man, one who literally radiates love, peace, light, comes from within that truck who you had not seen. Suppose he stops you for a moment, rests his hands on your shoulder, smiles and acknowledges your fear with kindness and not with condemnation. He says, I know you are afraid that you'll give it all away and your own needs won't be met. Do not be afraid, for I promise you that your needs will be met and I thank you for your willingness to serve others.

Something in his demeanor, his words, his innate radiance, inspires your trust and your fear falls away.

Can you see the difference in your own experience? Can you feel what happens when your heart opens with such trust? Can you feel how joy enters the scene? How there ceases to be a giver? How glad you are to hand that blanket to that shivering old man and watch his joy, and participate in his joy?

Of course, I did not deliver blankets and oranges with this one from the back of the truck. But there were so many occasions when my own fear arose in that way: will my needs be met? When he was there, literally looking over my shoulder, when he was able to acknowledge the fear that I could not yet verbalize, and to acknowledge it with kindness and remind me, “your needs will be met,” in this way he taught me faith.

Of course, there are many things that may call up a strong self or giver, such as pride, but these are all vestiges of fear. We become a self to give the illusion of separation, that we may be safe from the suffering of the other. We become a self to enhance or self, because we feel frail or helpless. Here i wish to simply address the ways he taught us to give without fear, taught through his own loving example.

Let me relate some of these scenes to you. Each is a bit different. They are a random handful out of the great many from which I could choose. In each, the important thing for me was that he was able to acknowledge my fear, often my unspoken fear, and not in any way to criticize me for that fear, but to embrace me, fear and all. And within that embrace, to remind me that I had nothing to fear.

We were on a road, a small group of us. I had felt fortunate to catch up to him as he was walking from one place to another. At each end there would be a large group of people but just for this afternoon and evening, I had him with only a small group of others, a very special delight, to have the opportunity to speak directly to him for some hours.

It was almost dusk. We came through a grove of trees and around a bend and heard some kind of skirmish ahead of us. As we rounded the bend, we saw 7 or 8 people with sticks beating a man. He stopped one at the edge of this crowd and asked, “Why do you beat him?” “He had asked to travel with us,” came the reply, “and then behind our backs he stole from us.” This man invited us to join him in administering this beating.

I wondered what he would do. Would he try to intervene. I think if it had looked like they were out to kill the man, he would have intervened. As it was, he simply said, “No, I do not beat another.” What he did was to simply sit down close to this man's head and invited us to sit in the same way, so that to some degree the 5 of us who were there served as a barrier of sorts, not fully surrounding the one who was being beaten, but making it more awkward to get to him.

At first there were angry cries, “But he stole from us!”

“Yes, I understand.”

“He deserves much worse than a beating!”

The reply, “He should not have stolen, I agree. I wonder what prompted him to steal. Did you ask him?”

An angry retort. “I do not talk to thieves.”

“Perhaps he had some reason.”

“Yes, he had a reason. His reason is simply that he's warped, that he is bad, that he is a thief.”

“Perhaps he IS warped in some way. Perhaps he has not been raised and trained to have proper respect and reverence for other people. Will beating him teach him that?”

And so on went the dialogue, until those who were doing the beating simply walked off.

Yes, I was afraid. I was afraid they were going to beat me too, and I was afraid they were going to beat Him. But his demeanor was so calm and loving, there was nobody doing anything, he was just present, judging neither the one being beaten nor the ones who were doing the beating, just present.

When they had left he began to tend this one who had been beaten, who had some bleeding wounds. We stopped there and built a fire, had a meal and slept there for the night. When we awoke in the morning, the thief was gone, and also our bag that contained our food. This one whom you know as Jesus made no comment, he just said, “Let us walk on.”

The one who had been beaten was badly injured and I think Jesus knew that he could not maintain a rapid pace. We began to walk briskly, a bit to my surprise, and soon we saw this thief in the distance. We saw that he tried to hurry but his body would not sustain him. He finally fell to the road trembling, crying, anticipating another beating.

“Why do you steal?” Jesus asked.

The man's face contorted with grief and rage. “Because all my life people have stolen from me. I have learned that I must take what I need. It will never be given to me.”

“Perhaps you have not encountered the right people,” he answered. “Perhaps your own fear has led you to interact with others who carry an equal amount of fear. Here are our packs. Please take what you need and leave the rest for us, that we may have our breakfast.”

Please understand that I had grown up in this culture which believed in the words, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” I was both amazed and filled with joy at what he did, and yet also very skeptical. I thought to myself, ones such as this can never learn. Perhaps he needs to be beaten enough to arouse enough fear in him that he will cease his thievery. But of course the choice was not mine.

This thief who got up and handed the package of stolen food to Jesus and said, “I don't need anything.”

Jesus said, “Of course you do. Have you had breakfast?”

“No.” He shook his head.

“Well, take what you need. Or better yet, sit here and eat with us.”

I think he wanted to do that. He could not. He finally took some bread and some fruit and, head hanging in shame, he walked away.

The story doesn't end there. After our meal we walked down the road. Some distance away we came upon a very poor man in rags, sitting under a tree eating bread and fruit.

“Have you need of more?” we asked. “No,” he said. “A man,” and he went on to describe the thief, “a man just gave me this. I have all I need.”

I cannot tell you what became of him, only in that whole process of his giving I learned a very important lesson. It was my fear in me that said, “Perhaps he needs to be beaten.” It was that in me which said, “Will my needs be met?” If the man had asked, Jesus would have given him the entire package, all of our food, because he knew our needs could be met. That doesn't mean we might not have been uncomfortable, hungry, for the morning, or the entire day, but we were not about to die of starvation.

There was another time when I was with him when he did give away our entire dinner. I have told you in past years of times when he invited others to share their food and somehow there was enough for everyone.

Again, we were traveling; here, a bit larger a group. We passed on the road a group of people who were also travelers, several families traveling together. They told us that bandits had taken all their food and clothing. The one who was Jesus literally took the shirt from his back, his cloak, and wrapped it around the mother holding her baby. He did not ask us if we would give our food, we simply gave it. He did not ask us to give our own clothing, but many of us did.

These people protested, said, “No, then you will be cold, you will be hungry.” Jesus said, “No, we will be fine. We will be taken care of. You take this, we do not need it.” Now, of course, I was afraid! It was going to get cold that night and the next town was a distance away. I was already hungry. But he said, I did not need it, and so, trusting him, I gave it. I was a simple man and perhaps that condition made trust easier for me.

I think I expected that when these families had gone on their way, he was going somehow to create a miracle, but he didn't do that. We walked a short distance and he pointed to a spot and said, “This looks like a good place to spend the night.” We looked at one another. None of us had cloaks. None of us had anything warm. None of us had any food.

It is clear to me that he was teaching us. “Your needs will always be met. It is safe to experience some discomfort. You do not have to be afraid.” Had he not been present, I know I could not have done what I did that night, which was to simply settle down, hungry and thirsty, by the fire and go to sleep, half-naked on the hard ground. And yes, I shivered. But we took turns arising to fuel up the fire. The morning sun warmed us, and several hours' walk brought us to a village where people knew him and very joyfully offered us food and clothing.

Trust the abundance of the universe. Do not be afraid. Do not measure what you're given. When you see need, give to that need, and let the giving be without a giver and without the measure built of fear..

His giving was so simple and so joyful, so spontaneous. Never did I see him give in a premeditated way. The giving of his talks was also not premeditated. When people gathered around him and were confused, these messages of love and truth would pour out of him. And to each he gave just what that one needed.

On one more occasion I had the opportunity to travel with him with a small group when something quite, for me, highly unusual happened. Please do not take these stories to indicate that I traveled with him often and knew him well. But on these few occasions I was blessed to share his company.

I had sought him out and my son, Mark, now a young man of perhaps 11 years, was with me. And once again we were in a very small group. I had not expected to meet him on this road but had heard he would be in a distant town, and was simply walking to that town with Mark. As we walked along the road, here he was. And so I had the great joy to walk with him. There were only The Master, two disciples and Mark and myself.

Suddenly in the distance we heard some small bells ringing. As we walked down the road and looked up at the hillside, there were some caves. At that time, beings who had leprosy were cast out of their communities and sent to live with others who had the same disease. It was much feared because it was contagious. They were requested to give a warning to travelers so travelers would keep a distance from them. So when they saw us coming, they rang their bells to warn us. “Unclean: leper.” The warning was meant to keep us down on the road, to make sure we did not climb the hill seeking anything from the beings that lived there. Of course it had the opposite effect on Jesus. They were people in pain. He simply turned on to the trail that went up the hill and began to climb.

The first disciple accompanied him immediately. The second turned to look at me, and again to look back at Jesus. Jesus turned and said to me, “You may come or wait. I will be back.” How he challenged in this way. I was more afraid for Mark than myself, to expose this child to this dreadful disease. He did not condemn my fear. He said with his glance, “I know you are afraid. I know that this can be contagious. You do not need to come.” His kindness, which acknowledged my fear with no criticism, allowed me to surmount it, and I followed.

I had never seen lepers this closely before. Some of the disfigurements were quite terrible. He immediately asked for water and simply began to wash wounds, took his cloak and tore it into strips of rags to bind those sores. After a few minutes, he simply turned and looked at me and the other two men, for the 3 of us simply had stood there and watched. He did not look at us with a glance that said, “Shame on you!” He did not look at us with a glance that said, “I expect you to help.” In his eyes was so much kindness for our dilemma.

These people had been so forgotten by the world, they were in such pain and had so little, I could not have been the giver, but I could be the instrument through which love flowed. As I watched him for those few minutes, I saw how he could do that, and realized I also could do that.

His disciples had followed him after a few minutes and began to tend to these others, but I still stood to the side with Mark. Soon he paused in his work and looked at me. He knew that I was a shepherd. He said words which went directly to my heart. He said, “These are my flock, and I must care for their needs.”

I do not know if he was telepathic, but with those words, the thought came into my mind of the time the previous winter when I had literally faced a wolf-like animal to rescue a ewe and her lamb. And I had not been afraid because this was my flock and this was what I needed to do.

I knew that if I just stood there, he would in no way condemn me. He would not love me less. It simply became so clear to me: here is a place where love is needed, and I may be an instrument of that love. And so I knelt and began to work. Mark watched me for a few minutes, watched all of us, and then he joined me.

We did not go on our way immediately, we shared our meal with them and spent the night there. In the morning, we shared with them the breakfast we needed and left them the rest of our food. He paused to look at a few of these wounds to see how they were healing. I have told you before that while this one could do miracles, and very occasionally did so, his choice was never to do an obvious miracle and thereby draw attention to himself. If he healed another, that disempowered the other. Then he was the healer. But if through his touch and energy he called forth the other's ability to heal, the process would be much slower but the beings were empowered, and learned that they were whole and could heal themselves. Where it was possible, this was always his choice.

There is one more story I must tell of how he taught me to give. One that still deeply moves me and brings tears to my eyes. I had another son, older than Mark. This one was unwellf rom early child . His joints were crippled. I suppose today one might label it juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. I loved this young boy. It brought such pain to my heart to see how difficult it was for him, how painful every movement was.

When I brought Mark to see Jesus I did not bring my older son because he could not walk that distance. Then it came a time when this older son fell very ill. His body was inflamed with fever. He wept for the pain that he experienced. For days he wept. He was always in pain, but this present pain was excruciating.

Now we were at home and I had no idea where the one who was Jesus was, had not seen him in almost a year. Through that night of my son's pain and fever, I prayed, “Please come and save this lad. I know you can do that. Restore him to health. Save him.”

And then I began to feel His energy moving. I did not see Him in material form, simply in my prayer and meditation I felt his energy and his thoughts. And the thought I received was simply, “You must give him permission to come home. You must allow him to leave this life of suffering and not hold onto him.”

And I saw then that my son was trying to live because he thought that I needed him to live, which indeed I thought I needed also. Again, my fear was intense for I loved this firstborn son so deeply. How could I give this gift, how could I let him go?

Through the night he shivered with his fever and then burst into sweat. He screamed and cried, literally out of his mind with his fever and pain. Toward dawn the fever broke and he looked at me with clear eyes. I knew I had a choice, then. I knew if I said to him, “You are strong, you will recover,” that he would continue to fight for me, and that he would face similar terrible moments—how many of them? Or I could tell him, “You are free to choose to stay here if you wish or to leave. I love you and will support your choice. If you need to leave, it's OK. I love you.”

As that realization of choice came to me, I felt Jesus' loving energy embrace me. It was very much like the experience I offered to you in meditation at the beginning of tonight's talk, of feeling your fear, as you stood there at the end of the truck, giving away what you needed, and then feeling his loving energy surround you and say, “It is safe.” And suddenly I knew, it is safe; safe for my son, safe for me. His essence will survive even his death, and I will survive his death.

I know I have told you in the past about the loss of my wife, this lad's mother, and so his dying was all the more painful to me because I had loved his mother and he so reminded me of her. I found myself looking into his clear eyes and was able to tell him, “Do whatever you need to do. I love you. The choice is yours.”

He looked at me with such gratitude in his eyes, I was aware of how much I had held him to this earth. He simply smiled at me, looked deeply into my eyes, and died. He needed to go home. I needed to give him permission to go home. I needed to transcend my fear and give permission from that place of love. With my deepest gratitude, even now 2000 years later, I thank the Master who taught me how to give with such love.

In this season in which you celebrate his birth with the giving of gifts, may all of your gifts be given with this heart of love, with no measure of what is given or received, with joy and without fear. May you learn to trust the infinite love and abundance of the universe.

I thank you for the opportunity to share these thoughts with you. If there is time, I should be glad to answer your questions. That is all.

Barbara: There's tea in the kitchen and some people have brought cookies and other goodies. Merry Christmas.