DURING this time of the year it is worthwhile to remind ourselves that material gifts and pleasures can never serve as a substitute for the deeper spiritual worship that the events of Christmas point toward. This season can be a time of spiritual renewal. Although the season celebrates the birth of Jesus, doesn't it become less than the joy-giving thing it can be if it does not to some degree awaken us to a spiritual rebirth within ourselves?

I was once asked to tell the story of Christ Jesus' birth to a group of young children during a Christmas program. Although at first hesitant, I soon accepted because I recognized that it was also an opportunity to deepen my understanding of the Christmas season. For several years I had been feeling a certain emptiness during this holiday time. I had a wonderful family to share Christmas with, and I appreciated the deep religious significance of the season, but the commercialism that came with it distressed me.

I prepared for the presentation by reading all of the gospel narratives about Jesus' birth and the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah's coming. When I read some Biblical commentaries, a few historical misconceptions I had were corrected. I also read what Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, has to say about Christmas. Throughout my study I prayed to gain fresh insight into the meaning of celebrating Jesus' nativity.

It was truly a time of inspiration. As my love and gratitude for the Master's sacrifice increased, I discovered how individual Christmas is. Although we may celebrate the holiday with friends and family, each of us is touched in an individual way by the Christmas message. And gatherings are enriched by our own quiet, prayerful time beforehand. For me, this developed more love and forgiveness toward those gathered together.

Jesus' birth became a symbol to me of the dawning in human hearts of God's spiritual idea, the eternal Christ. I perceived how humility, purity, charity, are mental elements that make individual thought a welcoming manger for the babe of Christliness.

I realized that the joy of Christmas is not found in simply gathering friends and family together or in celebrating a historical event but in assimilating more of the spirit of Christ, Truth. This may even uncover our faults and allow this Christly spirit to purify and heal us. Finding our joy in demonstrating more of God's healing power means finding peace and happiness that circumstances cannot take away.

When the Christ-spirit enters our mental manger, we see things much differently than before. We realize that true selfhood is found in understanding our unity with God, divine Spirit. We begin to see that our actual being is something more and better than the vulnerable physical structure it appears to be -- that in fact it's wholly spiritual and good, expressing God's nature. And this leads to the perception that sin and sickness are illegitimate, no part of our real selfhood, and can therefore be healed by the spiritual illumination of Christ, Truth. The divine light of Truth reforms our character and heals our bodies today as in Jesus' time.

The eternal Truth that Jesus lived is God's spiritual gift to mankind. At every yuletide season we can accept into our lives more of this gift. And we can know that its blessings last throughout the year.

In one of her several writings on Christmas, Mrs. Eddy says, ``To-day the Christ is, more than ever before, `the way, the truth, and the life,' -- `which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,' healing all sorrow, sickness, and sin.'' And then she adds, ``At this immortal hour, all human hate, pride, greed, lust should bow and declare Christ's power, and the reign of Truth and Life divine should make man's being pure and blest.''1

In a way, we could say that Christmas is a celebration of our God-given spiritual freedom. We rejoice in finding more of our life in Christ.

1The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 257.

You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:5

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