THE story of Christ Jesus' birth has been told in many nations and languages. When his parents were not able to find a room in Bethlehem, they spent the night in a stable, where he was born. Both shepherds and wise men commemorated the Master's birth, and the Bible tells us that angels rejoiced at his coming.
If this event had simply been the birth of an extremely good man who left a fine example for all of us to follow, it would have been significant, of course. But the spiritual stature and impact of Jesus' life reached far beyond that of a merely historical figure.
Jesus was setting an example, there's no doubt about that. But it was designed to represent more than human goodness. He was, in fact, showing us Christ, the spiritual idea of God, and the true identity of man. When we celebrate Christmas, then, we are commemorating not just Jesus' birth, but all that his life stood for: his proof of man's unity with God, the healing power of divine Love, the presence of God in our daily lives.
Sometimes family demands and social commitments may leave us feeling cut off from the peace and joy inherent in the message of Christmas. Yet through prayer, we can refresh ourselves and regain the inspiration that comes from a deep awareness of God's love for us. And we reach our goal more readily if we are able to see the spiritual basis for Christmas.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, has written a number of articles on Christmas. Some are published in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany. In one of these articles, she points out: ``The basis of Christmas is the rock, Christ Jesus; its fruits are inspiration and spiritual understanding of joy and rejoicing,--not because of tradition, usage, or corporeal pleasures, but because of fundamental and demonstrable truth, because of the heaven within us."
Often when we are feeling burdened or pressured, it is difficult to feel the energy and lightness of heart that come from joy. This seeming inability to be joyful stems from the mistaken belief that we need an outward object or circumstance in order to feel happy. In actuality, joy comes from within. And we can find it there because--as Christ Jesus taught--the kingdom of heaven is within us. It follows, then, that the spiritual qualities of that kingdom --such as love, peace, goodness, intelligence, pur ity, and joy--are present for us to accept and live in accord with.
Even when human conditions are challenging and it is hard to feel joy, we can gain great strength from the Bible. The Bible tells us, for example, that simply being grateful for God is a way of expressing joy. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes: ``Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. . . . And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
Celebrating Christmas in our hearts and striving toward greater spirituality has a way of bringing all the elements of the season into balance. It enables us to gain new insights into what we actually need to do--as compared to what we (or others) think we need to do. Very often, a prayerful approach to Christmas also shows us how to be of greater help to others.
Even more than this, our prayers help us to remain focused on the true message of Christmas--one that speaks to all people no matter what their religion. That message is the promise of God's love and presence for each of us, His children.
As we continue to pray for a greater understanding of our true spiritual nature and strive to rejoice in God's love--as illustrated by Christ Jesus' life--we celebrate Christmas not just in December but every day of the year.