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From the December 2009 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Christmas reminds me of a question I often ask myself: Why do I care so much about Jesus? Would I have been in those crowds who followed him when he lived in Galilee? What would have convinced me to follow him? His kindness and grace? His power to heal sick people? Would I have recognized my own calling to participate in his mission—destroying oppression, injustice, and self-absorption? Would I have been willing to bind up the brokenhearted?

A lot of people thought it was amazing that Jesus could provide food for thousands. That he could turn water into wine. And that he even had the divine authority to raise his friend Lazarus from the dead. They showed up to see these extraordinary exhibits of spiritual power. But most of them didn't stay around to find out how he did those things. It's likely they were content to be fed when they were hungry (see Matt. 14:15-21), delighted with the wine at the wedding, (see John 2:1-11), and grateful for Lazarus to return to them from the grave (see John chap. 11). But these earthly successes were side effects—not the goals—of Jesus' spiritual mastery. Searching for material comforts and accomplishments, most of them missed the spiritual wake-up call. In today's world, I wonder: Do our Christmas distractions keep us, too, from the spiritual wake-up call?

I hope if I'd made the rounds with Jesus and heard him talking in parables about the kingdom of God, I would have caught the idea that this kingdom is far more valuable than getting bread and fish, wine, or even relief from physical ailments. The kingdom Jesus was teaching about was a "pearl of great price" (Matt. 13:46). It's something to cherish—but it costs something. Another of his parables, now known as "The Prodigal Son," sheds more light on this kingdom as it feels like a guide home to a safe and loving Parent after a long nightmare. Like so many who were in the crowds following Jesus, the prodigal was much more interested in worldly excitement and success than learning the lessons of spiritual maturity. But the pain of his suffering jogged his memory of the pearl he'd left at home—the unconditional love of his father.