A disappointed first grader trudged up the front path. ''I'm to be one of the children at the manger in the Christmas play,'' she announced glumly. ''That's wonderful! Why so sad?'' asked her mother. ''I wanted to be an angel. They're the ones that sing the song of rejoicing. I can't rejoice unless I'm an angel.''
Everyone can rejoice at the celebration of the birth of Christ Jesus, whatever part in life he or she currently plays. The Bible accounts of the nativity are full of rejoicing. n1 Angels, shepherds, wise men, all joined in a paean of joy and praise. Why can we rejoice as the Christmas season draws near? To find the answer we need to look behind the tinsel to the real purpose of Jesus' mission. In his own words, ''I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.'' n2
n1 See Matthew, chaps. 1-2; Luke, chaps. 1-2.
n2 John 10:10.
It is difficult to imagine a world without the Christianity of Christ Jesus. He brought the promise of God's healing. He gave us, through his life and resurrection, the way of salvation and the assurance of eternal life. He taught the lessons of forgiveness and kindness. The influence of Christianity on the world since his coming is immeasurable. Today we can rejoice that the truth of God's supreme power and goodness, revealed and practiced by Christ Jesus, is conquering sin and healing sickness through prayer, and is increasing the understanding of man's actual, eternal life.
But one who didn't rejoice at Jesus' birth was Herod the King. Believing the baby to be the prophesied prince of an earthly kingdom, and hence a threat to his own power, Herod determined to destroy him. Today, an excess of material celebration may threaten to bury or destroy the real reason for joy. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, writes, ''Christmas respects the Christ too much to submerge itself in merely temporary means and ends.'' n3 Family get-togethers and piles of gifts can be delightful accessories to joy - provided they don't obscure the rejoicing over the coming of the Christ, Truth, to humanity, or the perpetual promise of the angels, ''Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'' n4
n3 The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 259.
n4 Luke 2:14.
One of the most wonderful things about Christmas is the opportunity we have to help others rejoice. There are so many, particularly in big cities, who feel that their loneliness, poverty, sadness, or suffering excludes any cause for joy.
My husband and I were involved in a community Christmas project conducted by the firm we worked for. For months the employees had donated gifts, and we, along with other volunteers, had wrapped and labeled them. One snowy day shortly before Christmas we took a carload of packages out into the city. That day was our Christmas - we saw faces light up at being remembered, the burden of care lift from a mother's face at the sight of a basketful of food. By the end of the day we had learned that the greatest joy comes from giving love, from caring and sharing. We had glimpsed some small part of Christ's love.
Deeper than material celebration is the realization of how blessed we are by the ever-presence of the Christ. The great truths that Jesus taught have lightened mankind through the centuries - and they continue to do so today. This is truly a cause for rejoicing! DAILY BIBLE VERSE In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotton Son into the world, that we might live through him . . . Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another . . . . If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. I John 4:9, 11, 12