The Christmas feast
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
Christmas should be a totally satisfying feast. In fact, the word Christmas is from the Old English Cristes msse, meaning "Christ's feast" or "festival."
It is a spiritual banquet, not a material one, and can only be truly satisfying when we partake of it spiritually. While parties and turkey and log fires are fun and natural expressions of fellowship, they have nothing to do with what Christmas meant originally.
Indeed, the one whom Christmas celebrates pointed out the inferiority of material things to satisfy, and the eternal, nourishing, life-giving supremacy of the spiritual. Speaking to a woman drawing well water, Jesus said: "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water I will give him will never be thirsty again. For my gift will become a spring in the man himself, welling up into eternal life" (John 4:13, 14, "The New Testament in Modern English," by J. B. Phillips).
How can we, today, join with Christ and partake of his feast? One way is to trust God to heal and care for us, on December 25 or any other day of the year.
One afternoon when I was visiting my sister, she fell heavily and caught her back on something sharp. She was clearly in excruciating pain, and she certainly let me know about it! First she hobbled to the sofa, but soon told me she didn't think she could move. This was alarming to me, but I turned my thought to God and reached out for His message.
I shared ideas with my sister that were coming to me. We prayed the Lord's Prayer, in which Jesus affirms that God's good will be done "in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10). We considered Mary Baker Eddy's spiritual interpretation of this: "Enable us to know, - as in heaven, so on earth, - God is omnipotent, supreme" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Pg. 17). And I sought to quiet my sister's fear through the understanding that God has afforded each of His children, whom He loves and governs every moment, exemption from suffering. I also read aloud to her from the Bible.
Soon we were feasting together on the truth of God's power and love. My sister quickly became less fearful and found she could move, although she was still in pain. We continued the prayer, which included a healthy helping of humor. By the time my mother and brother returned home, she was completely healed.
Mrs. Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, once wrote that "whatever inspires with wisdom, Truth, or Love - be it song, sermon, or Science - blesses the human family with crumbs of comfort from Christ's table, feeding the hungry and giving living waters to the thirsty" (Science and Health, Pg. 234).
We will each come across varied offerings from "Christ's table" this Christmas - if we're receptive to detecting them. What about the joy in carol singers and community church functions? Or the love that goes into the meals that friends or family or volunteer groups prepare? Or the cheer of Christmas greetings from people we may not even know? Taking note of these is a way of recognizing and feeling the action of Christ, no matter what our circumstances are at Christmas. What's more, we'll start to find this Christ-spirit everywhere!
In order to feast on these good gifts, we need to fast from ill will, gloom, pressure, and the like. One Christmas wish from Eddy to her friends was for "a happy Christmas, a feast of Soul and a famine of sense" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," Pg. 263). This is good advice for any time of year.
Of course, it is not wrong to enjoy good food and gift-giving. But the issue is more that we watch what we're digesting mentally. Now, you may say that at Christmas, or in any season, you feel you're being force-fed a diet of misery or pain or worry. Nevertheless, even now you still have a choice to turn it all around, and nothing can stop you from exercising this healing option.
Refusing to indulge fear or materialism prepares us to accept an infinitely richer holiday season - receiving the spiritual bounty of the Christ message. Everyone is invited to Christ's feast, so come, eat, and be filled.