And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
In this verse John is relating a spiritual vision where Christ is describing what happens when we experience God’s presence: He dwells with us; He dries our tears, eliminates death and mourning and pain. The former things pass away and God makes all things new.
When we align our minds, hearts, awareness and intentions with God, we are made new. What we were before is replaced by something fresh and different. We abandon our old ways of being, thinking, behaving, speaking, reacting and expecting. A more pertinent set of directives drives us: a set that is more Spirit-ordered, Christ-guided, positive, effective, and uniquely geared to us so that God can express more freely into Creation through us.
This is the entire purpose of Advent and of celebrating Christmas: to have the Christ lead us, guide us, transform us. But we must do our part; we must allow this process to take place and help facilitate the changes that Christ initiates.
Today we will engage in a two-part symbolic ritual called the Burning Bowl and a Letter to God, which work together to help this process of being ‘reborn” and making all things new. It is a spiritual and psychological combination of two ideas: the releasing of the unneeded and unproductive aspects that hold us back, and the acquisition of new elements that elevate us and make us more in tune with God. Yes, although it is six days into the New Year, the changes we want to see in our life are not a matter of calendar; they are a matter of choice.
For those that are listening to this recorded service, I encourage you to take part in this valuable exercise as well. Pause the audio where needed.
In a moment we will enter into prayer and meditation for a few minutes and then we will begin the first part of this exercise: to write down the things in our lives that we would like to release. Perhaps there are attitudes and beliefs that we would like to discard, negative ideas and thoughts that are holding us back. Perhaps there are people we need to forgive, or mistakes we have made that still require our forgiveness, and still must be forgotten.
It is good to remember that the past has no control over us other than what we give it. What’s done is done; what’s gone is gone. Let no more heartache linger on. We shift our focus to what we can affect, and that is what we are thinking and doing right now.
Maybe we are ready to release our feelings of powerlessness – old physical and mental habits that no longer serve us: fears, doubts, prejudices, attitudes, and habits – whatever is no longer useful or productive. We can release our tendencies toward being inconsiderate, disrespectful, and unthinking of others, with only our ego-based identity and all of its selfishness on display. We release the idea that we are in any way unworthy of God’s good because of our actions and thoughts in the past. We free ourselves from the idea that God is for some reason showing us disfavor or is punishing us. These are erroneous human thoughts of the ego, and we gently and lovingly let them go.
We will write down all that is on our hearts and minds and then those papers will be burned - a symbolic release and letting go of what is not working for us.
Today we release what we don’t want or need. We let go and let God do the work in this sacred experience. In this, we are healed and renewed. We open our hearts to love, and we are blessed with peace, joy, and harmony.
[Burning Bowl Ceremony] As you place your paper into the flame, say a silent prayer of “I release you and let you go. You have no power over me.”
We have just released some of the past – conditions, attitudes, thought patterns, belief structures, and feelings that we no longer need or want. By so doing, we have created a spiritual vacuum, a place for new thoughts and attitudes, new ideas, conditions, relationships, and experiences to enter. The negative energy is released, and we now reinvest that misdirected energy into positive, affirmative, and rewarding thoughts and ideas.
Let us now reflect again for a moment and then write our visions of what we want this year to bring in a letter to God.
Now let us write down, in the form of a Letter to God, what we wish to bring into our lives this year. I encourage you to look at the various parts of your lives: Faith, Family, Friends and relationships, Finances and work-related, Health and Fitness, Education and learning, attitudes and philosophies, emotions and reactions; Actions, which can include our service to others and the community, and how we react, respond to, treat, and speak with others.
Whatever it is you want to see materialize in your life this year write it down in the form of a ‘Thank You’ to God. Do not judge it if you’ve tried an idea in the past and it has not manifested. Perhaps you are now ready to receive the gift. Write it and thank God for it as many times as it takes. The past has no power over you and Spirit loves to give second chances… even third, fourth and 5000th chances. Affirm what you want your year to bare.
When you have finished, fold your paper and put it in your envelope. Address the envelope to you with your return address and seal it. They will be mailed back to you at the end of 2019, so write clearly, with a complete address. You will place your Letter to God in the collection basket and the letters will be prayed over throughout the year and then returned to you at the end of the year.
For those listening to this through a recording, I encourage you the next time you are in church to drop your Letter To God in the collection basket. I will add it to those I already have and will pray over yours as well. If that is not possible, then set your letter aside and place it somewhere you can give it a brief prayer when you think of it; something like “Thank You God, for this or something better.” Then open the Letter at the end of 2020.