THERE were signs and wonders in the heavens at the time of Christ Jesus' birth. Luke's Gospel tells us that shepherds who were awake, looking after their flocks, caught sight of the light that led them to the Bethlehem manger. An angel announced to them the birth of the Saviour, and this was followed by the declaration "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.This message of "good will was meant to show that God's purpose is not to punish or make us suffer, that God is actually ever-present Love. Then, as now, people needed someone to prove this, to show them God's goodness in individual lives. And Christ Jesus' whole life was a testament to God's love for man. At the same time, Jesus' example showed us what to do in order to experience this love. Through his obedience to God, his willingness to trust divine Love even at the risk of his own life, Jesus provided mankind with a genuine path to spirituality that guides us to true happiness and fulfillment not just at Christmas but throughout our lives. Yet if we see Jesus as just a historical figure--or as such an ethereal, otherworldly being that we have no hope of following him--then Christmas and its promise of God's goodness won't really help us very much. This wasn't Jesus' intention at all. Over and over again he told his hearers to follow him, and he made clear through his teachings that he wasn't talking just to his disciples. He wanted all to know and feel the love of God. We learn to know God through His Christ--the true idea of God that Jesus so perfectly represented. For example, Christliness is expressed through love for our fellow humans. We may need to listen prayerfully to a shared confidence, offering encouragement or giving honest answers. Loving our friends, acquaintances, and even enemies in this way helps us to see God's love touching our own hearts and lives. We come to see that the Christ is with us wherever we go, bringing the light of hope, joy, and salvati on that Jesus' ministry actually kindled for mankind. The presence of Christ is universal, just as God's love is. Each one of us can let it bring healing to our lives and to our relationships with others. Its influence is described in a poem by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, called "Christmas Morn. In it, she says of Christ:
Thou gentle beam of living Love, And deathless Life! Truth infinite,--so far above All mortal strife,
Or cruel creed, or earth-born taint: Fill us today With all thou art--be thou our saint, Our stay, alway.
When we express the Christ as Jesus taught, we too are representing the "gentle beam of living Love that healed in the days of Jesus and his apostles. This Christ shows us that man is fully spiritual and is inseparable from his Maker, divine Love. As we understand this eternal unity of God and man, we see that so much of the world's grief and our own troubles stems from the belief that man has somehow been cut off from God. But as we are able to feel and express God's love to those around us--and to know it in our own lives--we begin at least to glimpse something of man's inseparability from divine Love. This confidence in God opens our hearts and makes them shine with love that lives--not just at Christmas but all year round.