In the quiet of Christmas

A FEW years ago my wife and I received a Christmas card from a close friend, a card that still brings us quiet joy. His card that year was a folded piece of note paper, unadorned except on the ``front,'' where he had stuck one of that year's postal service Christmas stamps, a Renaissance picture of Jesus. Strange as it may sound, that was one of the most meaningful Christmas messages we received that year, or any year. In its simplicity and wordlessness it spoke volumes to us of what we had yearned to feel at Christmastime--the beauty, power, and sublimity of God's constant gift to humanity, the Christ. About the time we received this card, my wife and I were beginning to look earnestly for more meaningful ways to celebrate Christmas. We had always loved the simpler things of the season, the warmth of family exchanges and the uncomplicated mutual sharing with friends. Yet even with the greeting cards, entertaining, and gift giving reduced to sincere and heartfelt minimums, something was missing. When we realized what it was, it seemed so simple: we needed most to entertain the Christ in our thought. As Christian Scientists we deeply love Christ Jesus. In him the human and divine perfectly coincided. Yet the universal presence of God's power that we understand to be the Christ is, as Jesus said, perpetually with us--before the world was founded (John 17:24) and always (Matthew 28:20). We began to see that the true sense of the Christ as God's ideal, so fully expressed by Jesus, can't be buried or dimmed by commercialism or sensualism or romantic nostalgia--if we make the effort to welcome it more and more constantly through our prayers and actions. Our concept of entertainment gradually took a radically new form. Jesus poignantly explained the kind of entertainment I'm speaking of when he was a dinner guest of Simon the Pharisee.1 Jesus paused during the meal to contrast the way Simon had received him, with the pure devotion shown to him by a woman known to be a sinner. With three unmistakable examples--tears where there had been no water for dusty feet, kisses when there had been no welcoming embrace, and oil where there had been no friendly gift of ointment--Jesus pointed out the qualities of thought that enter tain the Christ. Humility and a sincere desire for moral progress. Purity and affection. Consecration to spirituality. As we quietly welcome such Christly qualities and recognize them as ours already because our actual selfhood is God's very image, we can't help hearing the Christmas message that God, our Father-Mother, loves us deeply and cares for us constantly. There's no room for sorrow or aimless self-indulgence, no place for fear or heartless insensitivity, in the thought that's preparing to receive Christ. Our quiet waiting should be the opposite of selfabsorptive solitude, as we remember that ``God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.'' 2 Mankind will be benefited by the calming stillness of our spiritually receptive thought. In an arresting passage from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, speaks of our response to Christ Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection in a way that gives us food for thought as we consider his birth: ``If Christ, Truth, has come to us in demonstration, no other commemoration is requisite, for demonstration is Immanuel, or God with us; and if a friend be with us, why need we memorials of that friend?'' 3 Whether you happen to be reading this article on Christmas Eve or in mid-July, pause a moment to entertain the spirit of Christ. It's the one gift that is genuinely priceless. 1 See Luke 7:36-50. 2 John 3:16. 3 Science and Health, p. 34. --30--

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