Look into the face of a laughing child, and you almost see innocence incarnate. The bright eyes, the joyful smile, the openness to good, the bright hope. This time of year, it's not unnatural to expect that children will be smiling over gifts they receive, sitting around dinner tables with loved ones, playing with friends during the holiday break from school.
But these happy times aren't universal, and there are children who grow to adulthood without knowing some or all of these joys. In their eyes, to be innocent is to be naïve or foolish. Their world is a hard, lonely place, and they learn that they might as well get used to it.
Except we shouldn't get used to thinking of the world this way, and the Christmas story is a message to these people (and everyone else) that hope and joy have power. That innocence saves. It's for them that the angels sang gloriously of newness and joy. It's for them that the wise men journeyed from their own country to discover if the star's message actually was true: that a special child had been born who would do great things. And how interesting that this messenger of hope and renewed innocence was born in modest circumstances without a spotlight.
That was a good thing, because there were darker forces on the scene that we traditionally identify with Christmas. King Herod feared that the child whom the wise men sought would be a rival and would supplant him. But the pure innocence of Christ hid Jesus, and an angel warned Joseph to take the child away into Egypt for safety. Innocence protects.
Innocence doesn't overlook wrongdoing, but it refuses to condemn because it sees us as we truly are: the spiritual sons and daughters of God, loved by Him, made by Him. The spiritual idea of God is always innocent and never sins.
A woman written of in John's Gospel probably couldn't have felt less innocent. Caught in the act of adultery, her life was on the line. She'd been taken for judgment to the child who by then had grown to be Jesus Christ. Reminding her to sin no more – to change her ways and live her innocence – he'd refused to condemn her. He'd also made it impossible for her self-righteous judges to stone her. Innocence preserves and restores life.
Innocence never actually disappears, even if we temporarily lose sight of it. Innocence is part of the original equipment God gave His creation "in the beginning." There has never been a time when innocence was lost, but even if we've been led astray, claiming our purity and innocence – and then living in accord with it – will lead us back to safety.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector, and at least some people felt he was dishonest. Yet Jesus' ability to perceive what? – his innocence, perhaps? – led this man to a new life (see Luke 19:1-10). He publicly offered to give half of his goods to the poor and to restore four times whatever he'd collected unjustly.
These people were all touched by the transforming power celebrated at what we recognize as Christmastime. What was that power? It was Christ, of which Mary Baker Eddy wrote: "Christ is the ideal Truth, that comes to heal sickness and sin through Christian Science, and attributes all power to God. Jesus is the name of the man who, more than all other men, has presented Christ, the true idea of God, healing the sick and the sinning and destroying the power of death" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 473).
This ideal Truth is innately innocent because it knows nothing except its own purity and goodness. Its influence is divinely empowered to open our eyes to God's goodness, not just in biblical times but now, right here while you're reading this article.
The Christ-presence speaks of restoration and newness, of second chances, of 100th chances – of patient progress toward spirituality, peace, and goodness. At this very moment, Christ can bring peace to your life, to a loved one's life, to everyone's life. Listen, you can hear its voice. Innocence speaks.