AT this time of year, many people around the world are preparing for the celebration of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem. Some may be more religious about Christmas than others, but the overall desire is to experience the message the angels brought: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:14).
All nations long for lasting peace, especially in areas like Bosnia, Nigeria, the Middle East, Korea, and Northern Ireland. Many people have worked long and hard in this cause. The foundation of permanent peace, however, isn't really found in treaties or agreements. These are valuable, but they can be broken or ignored.
The peace that Christ Jesus came to bring us rests on a much deeper basis. Through his ministry, he made clear that man's relation to God should be the central point in all our thoughts and prayers. And speaking of Christmas, specifically, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, said this in a book called The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany: "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. The basis of Christmas is love loving its enemies, returning good for evil, love that 'suffereth long, and is kind' " (p. 260).
Such ability to love doesn't come from willing ourselves to take this step. Rather, through a recognition of our spiritual relationship with one another, we can find genuine love in our hearts for all men. Since the Bible tells us that God actually is Love itself, it follows that you and I, created in God's image, are created in Love's image. We have the ability to love one another-even when we are at swords' points. How this can be done, even under the most trying circumstances, was brought out when a Christian Scientist was a prisoner of war under the Japanese in World War II.
The prison camp was brutal, as most POW areas were. Food was in short supply. One day, not long before Christmas, the camp doctor (also a POW) asked the Christian Scientist to request that fruit be purchased to supplement the men's diet. Since the Christian Scientist often served as a liaison between the prisoners and the commandant, he took money, which had been collected for this purpose, and went to the commandant's hut. He prayed as he went.
He explained the need for the fruit, but the commandant seemed unmoved. Then, against his own inclinations and reasoning, he felt inspired to tell the commandant about Christmas. He endeavored to convey the concepts of God's love as embracing all mankind; of true brotherhood; of loving one another. Through his experiences as a POW, he had seen that spiritual receptivity is common to all men. It doesn't belong just to a certain group of people who call themselves Christians.
In this case, however, it appeared to the Christian Scientist that he had not conveyed his message. Still, he refused to feel discouraged. He continued to trust in God's government of events.
Some days later he was summoned to the commandant's hut. Inside were men with baskets of fruit. When he took out the money to pay, the commandant pushed it aside. "Pointing at his chest, the commandant repeated, 'Kismis, Kismis,' and with that he took the money out of his own pocket and paid for the fruit" (John H. Wyndham, The Ultimate Freedom [Long Beach, CA: Mountaintop Publishing, 1994], p. 50).
While most of us aren't in prisoner-of-war camps this season, we can experience individually the promise of the Christ-the promise of peace from God. Let's bring this peace of Christmas to bear on our own troubles as well as the world's. We can widen our thoughts and prayers to include refugees, soldiers serving their nations far from home, and the millions who need to feel God's presence. Let's actively affirm that no one can be cut off from the angelic message that God loves each one of us, and the peace it brings. All of us, no matter where we are, can find unmistakable blessing in this message.