From childhood I associated Christmas with decorated trees and the joyous exchange of gifts. Under the sparkle, almost unnoticed, was the Bible story of Jesus' nativity.
When Christmas came during war years in an isolated barracks thousands of miles from home, I felt the meaning had gone with the tinsel. I reached for that Bible story of Jesus' birth to remind me of home. Unexpectedly, I found the Christ, the true meaning of Christmas.
Christmas wasn't the weather, the gifts, the place, or even loved ones present. Christmas is the heart's desire to understand and share God's love. I stopped thinking so much of myself, and more of others. Self-pity vanished in the desire to make others happy. In striving to help others, my own happiness increased.
That remote army base was my manger, where humility and service had their Christly birth in the understanding of Jesus' life. Mary Baker Eddy n1 points out, "The basis of Christmas is the rock, Christ Jesus. . . ." n2
n1 Mrs. Eddy is the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.
n2 The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,m p. 260.
Jesus showed God's great gift to be man in the eternal likeness of his Maker. He expressed this gift to perfection in his own life. He shared it with others in healing. The spirit of Christly giving is the medicine of God that quickens and reforms. It is the light that gives meaning and purpose to life, while dispelling the darkness of fear and sin. Jesus' Christly lefe mapped the way for all to achieve the purity, health, and integrity that is man's real nature.
The infant Christ grows in our hearts as we give more spiritually. Christly love appears in selfless prayer and unselfish deeds. The Christ transcends tradition and culture while elevating both with purity and grace. It hallows the desire to give. It is the helping hand going beyond the gift, the silent prayer reaching beyond the festivity. The substance of Christmas giving is the reality and supremacy of divine Spirit reforming mankind, bringing into view the image of God by annihilating materialism's immorality and greed.
As we are healed and reformed by Christ, we can heal and reform through Christ. Mrs. Eddy writes, "The basis of Christmas is love loving its enemies, returning good for evil, love that 'suffereth long, and is kind.'" n3
After my manger experience, I daily encountered by Christ in occupied enemy territory. I began to see more of the Christ in others, in unselfed giving from the heart rather than the head, and in loving enemies. For instance, an occupying soldier spontaneously helped a former enemy push a heavy cart up a hill. At the top he breathlessly said in the other's language, "I do this in the name of Christ."
In another instance, I gave my ration of oranges to a needy elderly person. She had not seen an orange throughout the long war. Overflowing with gratitude she said, "I'm visiting a sick friend and shall give her these from you." I had given from my abundance, she from her heart. In that war-weary land, I was the recipient of a rare gift unselfishly given.
The gift of Christ came home with me after the war. It has brightened all my days. It continually meets my needs as I share it with others. It is the ever-present promise of eternal life being fulfilled.
Christmas is not the tinsel (though this still sparkles for me), but the giving as Jesus gave, the loving as he loved. The healing message of Christly love I heard so long ago in that distant land increasingly cries out, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." n4
n4 Luke 2:14.
DAILY BIBLE VERSE We are unto God a sweet savour of Christ. II Corinthians 2:15