Christmas Eve: Escape or New Birth?
YES, it was December 24, Christmas Eve. My brother was smoking pot with friends in his bedroom. My parents had just slammed the door as they departed for a holiday party after a blistering argument. And I was sitting by myself in front of the Christmas tree.
So why did I come home from college for this?
Several weeks earlier, I had not wanted to come home. I had sought desperately to avoid the trip by having an irresistible invitation somewhere else, anywhere else! In the midst of this frantic search for an alternative Christmas vacation, I finally realized that I had to do more than look at the human options and what others could do for me to relieve me from facing my family environment.
During those weeks before Christmas I saw that I needed to align my goals and desires for the holidays with a more Christly attitude. I could impart this wherever I was. The only way I knew how to do this was through prayer. The prayer given by Christ Jesus, known as the Lord's Prayer, was a good place for me to begin. It's in the Bible, in Matthew's Gospel (see 6:9-13). I thought about the first line, ``Our Father which art in heaven.'' That was the Parent I wanted to spend my holiday with, and ``in heaven'' was the home I wanted to be in right here on earth. ``Hallowed be thy name'' made me think about the beautiful nature of Christmas--it represented Jesus' incredibly pure birth. ``Thy kingdom come'' made me ask, If I understand that God is right here and if Christ, His idea, goes with me everywhere, then where am I needed to express this growing, unfolding vision of Christmas--to really make a difference, even heal and transform lives, in a small measure, as Christ Jesus did?
I continued to think of the prayer line by line and reason prayerfully, as a Christian. Soon after I finished prayerfully turning to God this way, the ``poor little me'' attitude I'd had evaporated. As a bonus, an invitation came from dear friends to spend the week before Christmas at their family's mountain cabin. Those few days with this family enhanced my prayers and taught me valuable lessons about true Christmas. My prayer was translated into very visible experiences. I was included in every family activity. Before I left, though, I started to lament, ``Oh, how I wish my family were like this!'' But this too was to be transformed by those prayers and with the real gift they gave me. I knew I could joyfully take this new view of God's family, God's fathering and mothering, to my own family.
What had made the difference? It was not just a mountain retreat or the wonderful family. I had turned to the Scriptures for direction and answers. I had turned to God to instruct me as to what would fulfill His perfect plan for me and all concerned. While in the mountains I had begun to read the Christmas story from the book of Luke in the New Testament. During a hike, for example, as I looked out on one of the grand vistas, I caught a taste of the Christ-spirit; the idea came that Christmas is God's celebration. Undergirding each aspect of Christmas is God, illustrated by God's precious creation. And this creation, I was now seeing, includes both me and my family.
This was the Comforter touching me right there. I was empowered with the ability to love what was true and good in each member of my family. This was a healing of attitude and heart for me. I was transformed from looking to change or escape the material circumstances to being able to see the spiritual nature and being of God's creation. As a result of this spiritual rebirth, I knew I could go home and love as well as I knew how, be grateful for every good facet of my home and family, and cherish being home that holiday.
That Christmas Eve, I began to read again the Christmas story in the Bible. This time I wasn't alone. The illuminating Christ was present. I wasn't upset or depressed by the general family activity. I knew I was home to witness Christ's presence for all of us. That was my purpose. That holiday I was given a new, spiritual view of my family. You can imagine what a terrific Christmas I had with this new view.
This spiritual perspective of Christmas set the foundation for years to come. I now have a spiritual foundation of trusting God wholeheartedly that enables the Christ to transform each holiday season. As a result, false expectations have been abandoned and replaced by a continuing effort to seek God's view of each family member. Pretensions have been dropped in favor of patient listening and caring. And, though it didn't happen right away, the arguments, drug and alcohol abuse, and tension in my family are gone. Each family member is being held to a better view of him or her self--a more Christly view. Taking this spiritual view or divinely inspired gift to the family gathering sometimes requires continuing prayer, but it is always rewarding!
I still turn to the Christmas story each Christmas Eve. And as I read with quiet gratitude, I remember what Mary Baker Eddy, the Dis- coverer of Christian Science, wrote in her book The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany: ``I love to observe Christmas in quietude, humility, benevolence, charity, letting good will towards man, eloquent silence, prayer, and praise express my conception of Truth's appearing'' (p. 262). There is a great joy in letting the spiritual significance of the holiday usher in the Christmas morn.
May your family be blessed with Christ's presence and share in the blessings of the Christmas story this holiday!