WHEN I WAS GROWING UP, EVERY CHRISTMAS MORNING AS MY BROTHER and sisters and I tore open our gifts, my dad never failed to remind us of his own poverty-stricken childhood. And he would once again recount for us—in ever more exaggerated detail—the sad Christmas when his father was away in the First World War, his mother had passed on, and he and his siblings, cousins, and neighbors gathered for a Christmas celebration. Small, bright packages covered the big Christmas tree, and each child was handed a fun toy—their only Christmas present that year. But when it came to my dear dad's turn, he was handed only an unwrapped toothbrush. And although we kids would groan when the story started, no matter how many times she'd heard it, my mom would well up in sympathetic tears.
As my siblings and I grew older, we started putting a toothbrush on the Christmas tree. And we still put a toothbrush on the tree. Not only to remember our beloved dad, but I think also to remind us of our own blessings and that Christmas really isn't about extravagant gifts. Rather, it's about expressing love and generosity of spirit—what I would call expressing the Christ—to our families, to friends, and to the world.
To the founder of this magazine, Mary Baker Eddy, Christmas also meant much more than gift-giving and celebrations. As she discovered, the birth of Jesus actually announced the dawning of the Christ in human consciousness. She wrote: "The wakeful shepherd beholds the first faint morning beams, ere cometh the full radiance of a risen day. So shone the pale star to the prophet-shepherds; yet it traversed the night, and came where, in cradled obscurity, lay the Bethlehem babe, the human herald of Christ, Truth, who would make plain to benighted understanding the way of salvation through Christ Jesus, till across a night of error should dawn the morning beams and shine the guiding star of being. The Wisemen were led to behold and to follow this daystar of divine Science, lighting the way to eternal harmony" (Science and Health, p. vii).