The heart of Christmas
A Christian Science perspective on daily life.
Last year, a holiday film came out that challenged the status quo for seasonal entertainment. "What Would Jesus Buy?" followed a performance artist and his gospel choir as they crossed the United States, staging events to encourage people to consider the true meaning of Christmas. The movie's message to live more simply and consciously remains timely for those of us who embark on the annual quest to keep the Christmas season real.
It's easy to get caught up in the "magic" of the season. At some point, though, it's not uncommon for people to find that while the idea of spreading good cheer is nice, the conventional forms of celebration – holiday parties, decorations, and the exchange of presents – tend not to deliver more than passing pleasure.
Mary Baker Eddy's illustrated poem, "Christ and Christmas," depicts a scene that captures the sense of yearning for a more spiritual view that often comes at this time of year. In it, a family and friends are decorating a tree, a scene that would fit well on a nostalgic Christmas card. But in the foreground is an elderly guest in a wheelchair, not participating in the festivities. That image brings out the desire to include everyone in the all-embracing spirit of good – the kind of comfort and cheer that lasts and radiates to others.
It's a good thing to wish others well, and even better to make an effort to reach out and help. Attaining these aims begins with identifying our values and ideals and acting more in accord with them. Backed by love for one another, they express a desire that opens the way toward greater good.
But it's even more helpful to recognize that both the inspiration and the impetus for accomplishing good come from God. And God's love is divine – infinitely bigger and more embracing than can be humanly conceived. Recognizing that there's a divine Principle of good makes the difference in distinguishing between a limited personal philanthropy and the world-transforming love that's seen in the words and works of Jesus. And it means that Christmas isn't so much a once-a-year celebration but an always available understanding of God's presence to be lived every day.
A worker in the household of the founder of this paper, Mary Baker Eddy, once commented, "Every day is Sunday here" (William Rathvon, "Reminiscences," 1908, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection, The Mary Baker Eddy Library). The alive, joyful sense of holiness as normal and always with us is the Christ consciousness that Jesus embodied and enabled people to experience. It's at the heart of Christmas, and it has tangible, practical effects on us.
A woman who called a friend on Christmas Eve, because she felt ill and was upset by a family event, found relief in the spiritual sense of Christ. As they talked about God's love and everyone's innate right to perceive, feel embraced by, and share this divine affection, the feeling of sickness and despair fell away.
Christian Science explains Christ, God's message of good to all humanity, as consistently, constantly present with us. Catching a glimpse of our natural connection to divine good, and to our true identity as sons and daughters of God, awakens us to a fundamentally different way to see things. Mary Baker Eddy described the practical effects of Jesus' spiritual perception in this way: "Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick. Thus Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is intact, universal, and that man is pure and holy" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pp. 476–477).
"What would Jesus buy?" Surely not a limited sense of good or a condemning assessment of humanity as cut off from God's love. The true spirit of Christmas turns our thoughts to what is best in us and invites us to consider ourselves and others with the "mind of Christ" (see I Cor. 2:16). The ever-present love of God regenerates the way we think, bringing a new spiritual perspective and unexpected blessings.