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Supporting family unity at Christmas

From the December 2022 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Oh, the expectation of love, peace, and joy at this season! “Again loved Christmas is here, full of divine benedictions and crowned with the dearest memories in human history—the earthly advent and nativity of our Lord and Master,” writes the Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy. “We count our blessings. . . . Parents call home their loved ones, the Yule-fires burn, the festive boards are spread, the gifts glow in the dark green branches of the Christmas-tree” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, pp. 256–257).

Sometimes it seems that Christmas is less about celebrating the “advent and nativity of our Lord,” and more about the expectations of happy family gatherings, festive activities, and abundant gift-giving. These are all lovely, but what if Christmas hopes are not fulfilled? What if a family is fractured by disagreements, divorce, illness, or death? Maybe one is holding on to hurts and misunderstandings or just deeply disappointed in another.

The passage quoted above continues, “But alas for the broken household band! God give to them more of His dear love that heals the wounded heart” (p. 257).

Can God’s love, revealed in the advent of Christ Jesus, heal the brokenhearted and bring peace to difficult situations, especially at this time of year? Indeed it can—if we’re ready to gain a spiritual perspective of Christmas.

Before Jesus’ birth, there were signs and prophecies of his arrival. In the Old Testament, Isaiah, Zechariah, and other prophets foretold the coming of the Messiah. In the New Testament, Zacharias, Mary, and Joseph were informed by angels of the Savior’s coming. The wise men were alerted to Jesus’ birth by a star, and the shepherds by a glorious heavenly display. All of these people got their messages directly from God. 

Christmas is the revealing and celebrating of a higher view of man’s relation to God. Jesus came along and showed us more clearly that God is a loving Father and that all of us are the beloved sons and daughters of God. Through the advent of Jesus, who embodied Christ, the true idea of God and the true nature of man as God’s spiritual image and likeness became apparent. And this clear understanding of man’s relation to God brought increased blessings and healing to humanity. 

During his ministry, Jesus presented a revolutionary idea about our relationships with one another. One day, while he was preaching to a crowd, someone told him that his mother and brothers wanted to speak with him. He replied by stretching his hand toward his disciples and saying, “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:49, 50). 

This response puzzled me. Was Jesus disregarding his human family? As I prayed about this, it came to me that the Master wasn’t disregarding these important relationships. Rather, he was turning his followers to a higher sense of family as not connected by blood or marriage, but by God, divine Love. 

Jesus always looked to his heavenly Father for the truth of his identity and that of those around him. We are not mere mortals struggling in a harsh world with problematic situations. We are the cherished children of God, the apple of His eye!

So can the shift to a spiritual perspective bring healing to our relationships? It has in my own experience. 

For a period of time, my husband and I were not allowed to see some of our grandchildren. This was heartbreaking to us, especially during the Christmas season. But I knew it would not be helpful to hold on to a material concept of family as human relatives divided by conflicting views. I needed a higher, spiritual perspective of the situation. 

I realized that my role wasn’t to be a good human mother and grandmother, trying to control the situation to get my desired outcome. Since God communicates directly to each of us, my role was to be an alert, prayerful, expectant witness to the presence of Christ. 

It occurred to me that God doesn’t have any grandchildren, only children, and I prayed to see all involved as God’s spiritual ideas united in love, not human personalities separated by disagreements. I affirmed that we could all feel God’s love—that we could each understand, in our own way, that God is truly our divine Parent. As Mrs. Eddy writes, “God is our Father and our Mother, our Minister and the great Physician: He is man’s only real relative on earth and in heaven” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 151). 

Though our family situation needed consistent prayer, unselfed love, and humility, contact between us and the children was eventually restored. And we’ve had many opportunities to pray with them and share God’s love for them and for all. They know that wherever they are, God is right there with them, and they have found much comfort in that.

Here and now, the Christ is present. We can know that God’s lovingkindness envelops all, not just at Christmas, but all year round. Because of that relationship revealed by the advent of Christ Jesus, we can be certain that we are never separated from God or from each other. We can expect God’s love for each of us to be felt and to transform our understanding of ourselves and our relationships, even when human circumstances seem to disappoint. 

God is always here, guiding, guarding, and wrapping us all in the arms of infinite Love. And that ever-present Love lifts us and carries us onward and upward.

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