For the first time ever, I was too far away to go home for Christmas. A college student in London, I made plans to spend the holidays traveling with a friend. We ended up at the home of her German relatives, who warmly urged us to stay for Christmas. The prospect seemed bright until the morning after our arrival.
My friend's cousin worked in a new hospital nearby, and he insisted on giving us a tour. I retreated to our guest room, distressed. My mother had passed on exactly two years before, after a long hospital stay. I didn't feel I could face going into a hospital that day. When my friend came into the room, I tearfully explained the situation. She graciously excused me from going.
After she left, my tears flowed. I appreciated the love expressed to me by my friend and her relatives. In fact, perhaps it was feeling this love that made me cry. Perhaps it reminded me of my mother's love. No doubt I was also remembering all the happy Christmases I'd spent growing up in a large, loving family – a family that was now scattered and would never be quite the same again.
I reached out to God, praying: "Dear God, I know You are right here with me. Help me to feel Your ever-present love."
As I began to feel that love, I knew that in the infinite, all-embracing Love that is God, Spirit, nothing had really changed, nothing had really been lost – not my mother's life, not my sense of home, comfort, or joy. I began to feel a genuine peace and happiness. I got up and found my friend's aunt in the kitchen. She didn't speak English. We had to communicate through gestures. But as I helped her prepare the noon meal, a tender compassion enveloped me.
As the week progressed, I was delighted by many evidences of God's care. The family embraced my friend and me, including us in every holiday activity. Although the outward forms – the language, foods, and customs – were different, I was keenly aware of a love that transcended cultures.
For example, on Christmas Eve we all drove to the top of a mountain for a service at a shepherd's chapel. We gathered in a circle outdoors and held candles that lighted our faces against the black night. I understood hardly a word that was said or sung. But the beauty of the music, the soft glow on each individual's face, and the gentle spirit of love that permeated this gathering pointed to the presence of the universal Christ, embracing us all in Spirit and in Love.
On Christmas morning there was no exchange of gifts, and this felt strange. But I was in for a surprise. As I made my bed, a stray sock belonging to my friend appeared. I tossed it to her as I pulled the covers up.
"You silly," she said. "That's your Christmas stocking!" Inside was a special trinket she'd bought for me on our trip. I laughed at how my preconceptions of what Christmas should look like had prevented me from recognizing a familiar tradition.
When we left her relatives' home, her aunt hugged us with tears in her eyes, saying (through her son, who interpreted) that she'd never had a daughter but now we were like daughters to her. I felt sweetly mothered. We kept in touch for many years, and I still treasure that Christmas.
The Christ, which the book of John said "lighteth every man that cometh into the world," unites us all, whatever nationality or religion. Jesus' message was and is that we are all the loved sons and daughters of one Father-Mother, embraced in one universal family.
The Christ is present now, everywhere, to light up the darkness of any feeling of separation from good, whether across time or space. We experience this as we ponder the deep-down meaning of what Christ Jesus taught. As Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "A right apprehension of the wonderful utterances of him who 'spake as never man spake,' would … transform the universe into a home of marvellous light.…" ("Unity of Good," p. 17).