For some, it may seem a little harder than usual this year to keep in mind the real meaning of this season. Events have been clamorous - ranging from the unusual, a military operation against Iraq, to the virtually unheard-of, the impeachment of an American president.
Meanwhile, the background din of holiday commercialization is as loud as ever. As E.B. White once remarked, "To perceive Christmas through its wrapping becomes more difficult with every year."
But never has that perception been more needed. The fundamental message of Christmas speaks directly to humanity's need at this hour. That message of hope and healing can silence the clamor of conflict and crassness by force of its sheer relevance.
In December 1905, the founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote an article on the significance of Christmas for the New York World, a newspaper of that day. In it, she observed: "The basis of Christmas is love loving its enemies, returning good for evil, love that 'suffereth long and is kind.' "
Kindness, forgiveness, and patience sometimes seem far removed from the world's controversy and conflict. And yet they're actually at hand. That's the enduring promise of Christmas. Much is being said about the poison of hatred in American politics. Much is said about unbridgeable differences between Israelis and Arabs, Serbs and Albanians, Iraqis and the Western world. But the fresh year ahead doesn't have to be a rehearsal of rancor and divisiveness.
This is the moment, right now, for political leaders and citizens everywhere to do their part to see that doesn't happen. And this season of spiritual renewal - the messages of Christmas, Ramadan, Hanukkah - can immeasurably help in that effort. Reconciliation and accomplishment can mark the new year, and this paper and this page will be exploring practical steps toward that end as 1999 begins and progresses.