For many the world over it will seem a time of great adversity as Christendom pauses to commemorate the nativity of Jesus. Amid the tinsel and sounds of celebration, therefore, Christians need to remember the practicality and power of the Christ message.
''On earth peace, goodwill toward men'' still sing the heavenly host, telling us again the meaning of the season. For Christmas is more than a pleasant celebration that evokes a feeling of well-being and gratitude for personal joys. It calls Christendom to rise to the full expression of that universal peace and love for humanity which can conquer every ill and bring to light God's perfect government.
The world yearns for that expression. In the many centuries since the wondrous advent of Jesus, mankind has been gradually emerging into freedom, shedding its earthbound limitations. But no one will gainsay the path still to travel. Poverty, hunger, disease, confusion, violence, oppression, fear of nuclear annihilation - these remind Christians of the demand for ever more selfless effort to utilize the might of Christianity.
Sometimes it is forgotten how practical it is. There is a tendency to think that the things of the Spirit have no relevance to worldly affairs. Yet the unparalleled life of the man whose birth we celebrate shows us otherwise. Christ Jesus laid no intrinsic importance on temporal things, but he did not ignore men's needs. Were they hungry? He fed them. Were they sick? He healed them. Were they sunk in despair, discouraged, fearful? He compassionately lifted them to see the innate Christliness in themselves and in everyone. Were they tyrannized? He vanquished the ultimate blow of hatred. And he empowered others to do ''even greater works'' by seeking first the kingdom of heaven and - through purity, mercifulness, love - regenerating themselves.
Then, said he, ''all these things shall be added unto you.''
It is the promise of that heavenly kingdom which makes the birth of the Bethlehem babe so precious and honored. And it is the glorious example of Jesus's triumph over the world and tangible demonstration of man's sonship with God that should daily inspire Christians to follow. The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, hallowed Christmas, and she wrote of the Christ ideal which Jesus embodied:
''We own his grace, reviving and healing. At this immortal hour, all human hate, pride, greed, lust should bow and declare Christ's power, and the reign of Truth and Life divine should make man's being pure and blest.''