'We still need to bake our cookies!" my little neighbor called over her shoulder, skipping away from my house with her mother.
"Yes, we do!" I promised. We had made our plans, back in August, to produce holiday pastries together when the time was right.
Baking Christmas cookies is an annual event in my house. Every Christmas, when I was a child, my mother would set up a little table for my brother and me, where we would be happily employed for hours, cutting dough into shapes of trees and angels and wreaths and crescent moons before decorating them with red and green sugar sprinkles or chocolate shot. After I grew up, I continued this tradition, often borrowing somebody else's children to help me when I did not have kids of my own.
I remember one of these baking sessions very well. That day, I'd invited two very special young friends, a brother and sister, to join me. I was expecting my first child. And although the pregnancy was not yet visible, these children had been among the first to know. They had learned about the birth of Jesus in their Sunday School. They were full to the brim with joy about my secret! (My favorite version of the story of the nativity is in the first two chapters of the book of Luke.)
First, we shopped together for presents for their mom and dad. Afterward, as we walked through the parking lot toward the car, the boy ran ahead of his sister and me without looking, and narrowly missed being hit by a car.
The three of us hugged each other and thanked God for His protection. We rejoiced that the message of Christmas is of God's great love for us. God created us pure, eternal, spiritual, intact. Just as in the Christmas story, where an angel tells the watchful shepherds to "fear not," the angels were with us to tell us that we could continue unafraid now with the rest of our plans. We went back to my house to bake our cookies.
My friends were especially energetic when we returned. I went upstairs for a minute, and could hear them shouting happily and teasing each other and running from one end of the tiny first floor to the other. My husband was painting the stairwell at the time. And as I came back down the winding, narrow stairs, I slipped on some protective sheeting and tumbled down.
I cannot describe the fear and foreboding that I felt. I had wanted this baby so much, and for so long. And now I was afraid I would lose it. In the instant that I lay on the landing, the first thing of which I became aware was that I needed to apologize to God for having uttered an oath as I fell. I accepted the spiritual fact that this was His baby, and that He was caring for it, and that therefore my swearing was inappropriate!
When my husband reached me, he lifted me in his arms. "God loves you!" he said.
"And God loves this baby," I replied.
We sat there for a few more moments. As I rose, I saw that my young friends - who had been so noisy only a moment before - were now quietly sitting on the sofa, holding hands. I knew in my heart that they were praying, and I accepted the spiritual fact that their prayers on my behalf were pure and innocent ... and powerful. After a short time, we continued with our baking. It was a blessed afternoon.
Later that summer, these children helped us welcome our new daughter into our home. She was beautiful in every way.
As wonderful as all the decorations and festivities are, Christmas is not about glitter and canned music at shopping malls. It isn't even about baking cookies with special friends.
Christmas is about the quiet, innocent cherishing of the inevitable fulfillment of this Messianic promise in the book of Isaiah: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6). The eternal message of the Christ, born anew in all hearts, everywhere, at any given moment, is that God is our Life - our perfect Parent, the Father and Mother of all, holding each individual in the omnipotent embrace of His arms.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society