Bach’s Christmas Oratorio has become a favorite on our family’s holiday music playlist. Accompanied by jubilant trumpets and other instruments, the opening chorus announces Christ Jesus’ birth. A devout Christian, Bach infused his works with a love of the Bible. In the margin of an original copy of Martin Luther’s three-volume translation of the Bible, Bach wrote, “At a reverent performance of music, God is always at hand with [H]is gracious presence.” He noted this beside the following passage: “The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: ‘He is good; his love endures forever’ ” (II Chronicles 5:13, New International Version).
It is God’s enduring love and goodness that exemplify the spirit of the Christmas season: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Christ Jesus showed the world the eternal truth that as God’s spiritual creation (see Psalms 100:3) we are inherently good and complete.
Another of Bach’s works, “Ich habe genug,” translated “I have enough” or “I am content,” references the story of Simeon, whose last desire in life was to see the baby Jesus, symbolizing the promise of this everlasting life (see Luke 2:25-34). Their meeting took place in the temple when Jesus was still a baby. Simeon took Jesus in his arms and said, “At last, Lord, you can dismiss your servant in peace, as you promised! For with my own eyes I have seen your salvation which you have made ready for every people – a light to show truth to the Gentiles and bring glory to your people Israel” (J.B. Phillips).
What if, like Simeon, each one of us was satisfied and filled with everlasting joy by this promise of the presence of the Christ? Christian Science shows how this promise is indeed enough to comfort, inspire, and heal. It teaches that the Christ is a divine and eternal idea, God’s message that we are all loved and inseparable from our spiritual heritage. This message isn’t limited to a certain person or time, but shines throughout all ages, in every receptive heart. There isn’t a corner God’s light can’t touch. As Christian Science Discoverer Mary Baker Eddy explained, referring to God as divine Love: “The depth, breadth, height, might, majesty, and glory of infinite Love fill all space. That is enough!” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 520).
Feeling content and having “enough” isn’t exactly the message of holiday consumerism. That’s why our family generally avoids the crowds at our nearby mall, especially on Black Friday. But this year was different. Our daughter had a part-time retail job and was required to work Black Friday, arriving at the store at dawn to set up and get ready for the crowds.
Midmorning she texted me saying she needed inspiration. She’d been stationed at the front of the store to greet customers as they entered. Many of them brushed right past, preoccupied with their shopping lists. The constant repetition of loud holiday music and the stress of interacting with customers determined to search for a deal was wearing down her Christmas spirit.
I texted back with a suggestion: Instead of seeing the shoppers as needy and hungry for a bargain, what if she smiled at them and thought of the Christ light everyone truly reflects, as children of God? What if she turned “Black” Friday around and instead considered the eternal nature of that gift of light God is always giving every one of us?
My daughter liked that idea, and when I picked her up later, she told me that with this shift in thought her morning blues had lifted, and she’d brought renewed purpose and energy to her interactions with the customers.
There’s a hymn in the “Christian Science Hymnal” that’s harmonized by Bach and describes the good news we can still proclaim today, joyously affirming that the Christ is here and that we are witnesses to that light:
Angels at the Saviour’s birth
Woke with music all the earth,
Shepherds in the eastern sky
Saw a pale star passing by,
Guiding them at break of day
Where the babe in meekness lay,
Born the gracious news to tell,
God with us, Immanuel.
(Marion Susan Campbell, No. 11, © CSBD)