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Finding the heart, the spirit, and the Soul of Christmas

From the December 2017 issue of The Christian Science Journal

One of my very early memories of Christmas is of an evening when I was probably about twelve. My parents had gone out briefly for some shopping, and it was a new feeling for me, being entirely alone in a silent house but with all the familiar decorations—the fresh green boughs on the mantel, the lighted candles in the windows.

I sat down by the Christmas tree, and I remember wishing that the way I was feeling at that particular moment could last forever. It wasn’t at all related to school vacation or to Christmas gifts that might be coming. It was just a feeling of overflowing love for everyone and everything that kept growing. It was so definite and distinct, so different from everyday thoughts, and yet totally real and natural. I told myself I would always remember it.

To be honest, I didn’t remember it, and the experience was forgotten for long stretches of time. Interestingly, though, it came to thought recently as I was thinking about the remarkable things Christian Science has to teach us about Christmas.

The true spirit of Christmas is an unselfish spirit by nature, isn’t it? It feels love for others—children and animals, for sure. The heart goes out to people we pass by on the street or see on television or on the web halfway around the world. We may feel a surge of new love and understanding for the people we work with every day or for members on the far edge of the family circle.

But why? Where does all this love really come from? Christian Science, with its roots in the Bible, gives a direct answer. Love exists because it has a source—and that source is God. The Apostle John spelled it out: “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (I John 4:16).

As Christian Scientists we know these words—the letter—almost too well. But touched by their spirit, we realize there’s a wondrous depth of meaning to what John has said—something astonishingly different from the general impressions and theorizing of the human mind that seem to limit and dull our day-to-day views. 

Mary Baker Eddy, in an article for a popular magazine of her time, described Christmas as “the dawn of divine Love breaking upon the gloom of matter and evil with the glory of infinite being” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 262).

No wonder the Christmas spirit evokes the feelings it does for us. We’re being introduced to something of the divine Love that constitutes the true nature of the universe. As Mrs. Eddy explains, the Christmas story is imbued with divine dimension. It represents the first dawning on humanity of the vast, all-encompassing reality that is divine Love.

For centuries human beings had been trying to hold on to pieces of Spirit as best they could while still believing themselves to be in the midst of the gloom and the evil of a supposed material existence. But through the life and example of Christ Jesus, the ordinary way of looking at everything from the standpoint of a self stuck in matter and materially based impressions would be radically changed.

The effect of this change was seen in powerful, life-changing healings, and new joy and a new sense of life altogether. The same healing effect continues today. Christ, Truth, is timeless in correcting the error of a belief of living in the midst of matter and its many evils. Christ causes us to drop preoccupation with a human selfhood, and its collection of fears, finiteness, limits, inabilities, and turns us to God, who is in fact the source of not only our love but our intelligence and our never-ending capacity for good. “Life in and of Spirit; this Life being the sole reality of existence” were Mrs. Eddy’s words describing her discovery of Christian Science (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 24).

We may call this Christmas spirit “love” because that’s the simplest way we can think of to describe it. But it involves so much more than being kind and unselfish. Christian Science would describe the quality of real love as unselfed.

Paul’s experience described in the New Testament was a case of unselfing. As Saul, he’d been confined in a personal, material sense of existence, and he acted in accord with this belief. But the light of Christ, or a true view of God, transformed him and set him free from his own prideful impression of his life and character.

As the author of the letter to the Christians at Ephesus pointed out, those who are unselfed and “rooted and grounded in love” are enabled to know the infinite dimension and presence of God in a way that’s beyond anything the human mind can conceive. He writes of their being “able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:17–19).

What a difference between that vision and a customary calendar-based honoring of Jesus’ birth in the midst of a commercial and materialistic Christmas “season”! 

As Christian Scientists, we are growing in the understanding that Christmas is about love and its limitless source—the divine Love just referred to as the “love of Christ.” Christmas becomes to us something that doesn’t disappear after a day. In fact, it is never over, never obscured because of time or sickness or grief, or any other circumstance of the human story. It is never left in pieces in a box of trimmings, like some cherished but broken ornament.

Letting go of the false impression that Christmas is about a fragile, fleeting spirit of love that we’re personally hoping to hold on to, we learn more and more of the true dimensions of Christmas as the dawning on us of divine Love. And we go on finding the continual joy and evidence of all that God is and does.

Allison W. Phinney
Member of the Christian Science Board of Directors

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