I'd brought to a family gathering the then newly published book "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," intending to read it to everyone. Well, just as I opened it, my husband pointed to our young nieces and said quietly, "Why don't you let one of the girls read it?" I was a little miffed. But I quickly gave the book to the oldest girl. She stumbled her way through the story, but everyone enjoyed a young girl's performance, as well as Dr. Seuss' message that nothing can take away the spirit of Christmas.
In the end, not getting to perform didn't take away my happiness either. My momentary disappointment was eclipsed by appreciation for the gentle way my husband led me past the temptation to show off, which tended to happen when I was with family. Now, I could give all kinds of psychological reasons for such behavior, which inevitably made me unhappy. But I was beginning to learn I didn't have to continue it.
A few months earlier, we'd begun to study Christian Science. And we were gaining an appreciation of ourselves as being worthwhile, even important, children of God. This identity, we were learning, was true of everyone. No one needed to be always center stage in order to be happy and fulfilled. I was beginning to value the low-key quality of meekness, and to recognize its power.
The Christmas message - the modesty of the stable where Jesus was born - came alive with new meaning. His life was a vivid example of the might of meekness. He healed incurable illnesses, even raised the dead - and insisted that he could do nothing of himself. He said it was the Father, God, who did these things. When his disciples saw how powerful Jesus' prayers were, they asked him how to pray. He said, "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name" (Matt. 6:9).
Approaching God as a son or daughter, as a child, calls forth meekness of manner as the disciples of today pray. The power of childlikeness, of humility and gentleness, is exalted in many religious traditions. Isaiah has a beautiful, prophetic description of millennial peace, of what we may expect to see more fully on earth as we express more of God's qualities: "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them" (11:6). In any religious tradition one is celebrating at this time of year, childlike meekness will go a long way in ensuring the meaningfulness of the events and happiness of participants.
In religious and secular writings, meekness and temperance are frequently coupled. While these qualities are essential in preserving joy, they sometimes get overlooked in the festivities. Pride - and hurt pride - often follow in the wake of competitive gift-giving and entertaining. And overdoing it with eating, drinking, and socializing can lead to many regrets. But self-control is natural in the true celebration of Christmas.
The textbook of Christian Science lists eight "moral" qualities of thought and action, designated as "transitional." That is, they move human experience from serving appetite, pride, and other mortal characteristics, to a more spiritual, satisfying level: "humanity, honesty, affection, compassion, hope, faith, meekness, temperance" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Pg. 115). Expressing these qualities can rescue seasonal activities and restore to Christmas celebration its overriding purpose of finding "peace on earth."
"Meekness, moderating human desire, inspires wisdom and procures divine power" ("Miscellaneous Writings," by Mary Baker Eddy, Pg. 360). As we allow meekness to touch our hearts, and trust it to touch the hearts of those with whom we share the holidays, we can expect to find wisdom controlling our actions, leaving nothing to regret.
The Grinch, who had hated Christmas, returned all the gifts he'd stolen. And he ended up being the honored guest at the holiday feast. With Christmas, happy endings and transformed natures are always possible.