IS Christ the first thing you think of when you hear the word Christmas? Shopping, parties, vacations, and so on, play a large role in many people's celebration of this special time of year. Sometimes, it seems that these activities are the reason for the holiday. So much so, that the original purpose of Christmas--to commemorate the coming of Christ--is sometimes lost sight of.
For years, the worldly celebration of Christmas had the preponderance of my attention. Every December, my priorities centered on getting a tree, decorating the house, and shopping. It was not an inspiring time.
It seemed ironic, in view of the stress and tension I often felt in preparing for holiday festivities, that the purpose of Christ is to eliminate suffering--not cause it. I prayed for a more enlightened perspective on Christmas.
Even though Christ Jesus as a person is no longer present, the Christ-power he lived and demonstrated is. I reasoned I would get a more inspired view of Christmas if I focused more attention on Christ and what it is doing for mankind than on holiday festive-making. I turned to the Bible for guidance on how to do this.
After Christ Jesus' birth, Luke's Gospel tells us, shepherds in a field heard praises from heaven proclaiming, ``Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men'' (2:14). Throughout his career Jesus was promoting peace and goodwill toward all. What better way could I commemorate his example than by doing the same?
I decided to start celebrating Christmas by actively searching for evidence of the Christ within myself and others. We are all children of God, and therefore have access to Christ's power, even as Jesus did. Christ expresses the healing presence of God, and is tangibly seen in such qualities as brotherly love, heartfelt sharing and caring, and joy. To express these qualities and look for them in others, is to bear witness to Christ. I didn't have to wait until December 25 to do that.
While praying like this, I remembered two elderly friends of mine who lived alone. I knew neither of them had family in town. I realized this was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas. I telephoned them and asked if I could come over and say hello.
They were so happy to see me. They weren't expecting to receive wrapped gifts or anything like that; they just enjoyed being loved- -as did I! And with the newfound spirit of Christmas I had been discovering, it was easy for us to share with one another the Christly love that could never be put in a box anyway.
We should strive to be Christlike all year long. But it may take extra effort during the holiday rush to be sure we're expressing the real Christmas spirit. I've found that making prayer a daily priority, no matter how busy we are, helps keep our thought focused on the Christ. Quiet communion with God silences rush-rush thinking and enables us to see more clearly how we can give to others in meaningful ways.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, penned an article titled ``What Christmas Means to Me.'' It's in her book The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany. She writes: ``I celebrate Christmas with my soul, my spiritual sense, and so commemorate the entrance into human understanding of the Christ conceived of Spirit, of God and not of a woman--as the birth of Truth, the dawn of divine Love breaking upon the gloom of matter and evil with glory of infinite being'' (p. 262).
Putting Christ first has brought me newfound freedom and peace during the holiday season. We don't have to get pulled into the hectic pace the month of December often forebodes. We can come out and be separate. We can put spiritual growth and renewal at the top of our Christmas list.
If we're truly honoring the coming of Christ, we're doing everything the beloved Son would have ever expected us to do in the first place!