MOST of us are familiar with the Christmas story. We've heard -- or read in the Bible -- how Christ Jesus was born of Mary in a simple stable because there were no rooms available in the local inn. King Herod, aware of the people's apparently heightened expectancy concerning the ``King of the Jews,'' felt his power was threatened. Not knowing exactly where the child was, he ruled that all children in the land, two years old and under, be killed. But Joseph, Mary's husband, took Jesus and Mary to Egypt until Herod's death. Luke's Gospel says that the young Jesus grew and ``increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.'' As an adult, Jesus fulfilled his divinely appointed mission. He taught people about the kingdom of heaven and about God's love for His children. He healed all kinds of illnesses. And after he was crucified, he triumphed over death, proving that life is eternal. To me, one of the most important aspects of the life of Christ is what it reveals about man's true nature as God's child.
Christian Science helps us understand Jesus' teachings and his power to heal and their present-day application. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, tells us in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick.'' Our true selfhood, beyond what we appear to be to the physical senses, is actually spiritual, the likeness of God, Spirit. Man is actually God's expression -- perfect and free.
Through humble, consistent obedience to God, we can follow the Way-shower's path, taking spiritually progressive steps in proving our God-created, perfect selfhood. The ``Christmas story'' serves as an illustration of some of the steps we may go through in this process. For example, Jesus' birth in a stable points to the importance of meekness. It's no surprise really that Jesus wasn't born in an inn -- a place we could say includes common worldly attitudes, ambitions, and clamor. Worldliness can't bring forth or nurture spirituality.
Spirituality has its home in purity, in an unselfish state of thought that's turning away from materialistic values to deeper worship of the one God. Therefore, our ability to prove who we really are will be born and grow only as we are willing to yield to God's will and to the Christly message of man's spiritual existence. Those who are convinced they're not interested in spiritual reality or who perceive our budding spirituality to be a threat, may try to snuff out our love of Spirit. But we can know that such resistance isn't really personal, even though it may seem to be. It's carnal-mindedness, which is no part of anyone's true consciousness, and it has no genuine, God-derived power. We can find safety -- call it ``Egypt refuge'' -- in the love of God, omnipotent good, which is always present to care for us and to nullify any evil influence in our lives.
Our ability to continue to grow spiritually and ``increase in wisdom'' is unlimited. And our deeper understanding of our true, Christly nature will result in an increasing ability to heal ourselves and others of physical and other difficulties.
True, our growth in Christliness is not completed overnight, over a Christmas holiday, or even over a few years. But through prayer and study and earnest efforts to follow the Way-shower, we can increasingly recognize who we really are and demonstrate this selfhood to a greater and greater degree. This is what Jesus came to show us. This is the gift of Christmas.