DURING the holiday season we hear plenty of advice about not trying to do too much, spend too much, or eat too much. About the only thing we aren't warned against is rejoicing too much. The kind of rejoicing I'm talking about has to do with rejoicing in the spiritual basis of Christmas and what this holiday's message means for all of us. Many people know the basic facts: a baby named Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He grew up to be the man who presented a deeply spiritual message of God's love for man. He was also a healer. Crucified for his teachings, he rose from the dead.
Behind these facts is a spiritual message that will bring us joy any time of the year: that God loves each of us. And as Christ Jesus showed, God's love isn't an ethereal element that's nice to have but not very helpful. Jesus relied on it to heal people. And when people wondered at his works he said, ``I can of mine own self do nothing.''1
In saying this, he was pointing beyond himself to God and to the spiritual relationship between God and man. Jesus made clear that the kingdom of heaven -- of God -- isn't outside us but within us. So our joy doesn't come from outside circumstances but from our knowledge of our spirituality and our unbreakable relationship to God. As this becomes clearer, we find that we are valued and loved residents of God's kingdom.
Because Christ is always with us, there is never a moment when we cannot feel this divine influence leading us toward God. Christ aids us by revealing to us more and more of our true spiritual nature as sons and daughters of God. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, explains this knowledge and its specific relationship to Christmas. In an article entitled ``The Significance of Christmas'' she says, ``The basis of Christmas is the rock, Christ Jesus; its fruits are inspiration and spiritual understanding of joy and rejoicing, -- not because of tradition, usage, or corporeal pleasures, but because of fundamental and demonstrable truth, because of the heaven within us.''2
As we gain a deeper understanding of our spiritual relationship to God as His offspring, we learn that we do not live in matter -- we are, in fact, totally spiritual. This presence of God is the healing Christ, through which we begin to express the spiritual qualities that make up our true nature. Love is one such quality. Joy, strength, goodness -- these are all qualities that help to brighten our days and make those around us happier also. And as we reach out to others, we find our own burdens to be lighter.
A small experience helped me to see this. One Christmas I had been waiting for some time to be waited on in a store. My turn was coming when a child began to be very unhappy and fretful. His exhausted mother tried to comfort him but they had just come in and would have a very long wait. I suddenly felt a great deal of love for these strangers. I got this feeling that since Christmas is a time of joy, this situation was an opportunity for joy. Spontaneously, I gave the woman my place. The look on her face was reward enough.
This experience has stayed with me over the years, reminding me that through a willingness to embrace our opportunities for joy, we learn to know Christ -- God's presence with us.
1John 5:30. 2The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 260.