Before the birth of Jesus, the prophet John cried, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” (Mark 1:3). John wasn’t talking about buying and wrapping gifts, baking Christmas cookies, or decorating and lighting the perfect tree. So with everything else we need to do before Christmas, how might we best and most meaningfully prepare?
I have found that cherishing who Jesus was and what the Christ represents is a good place to start. Echoing John’s words, the beloved carol “Joy to the World” implores, “Let every heart prepare him room.” Besides celebrating the remarkable birth of Jesus, couldn’t this refer to honoring the spirit of Christly love Jesus taught and lived?
When my son was a toddler, we only had one car, making it very hard for me to do errands while my husband was at work. One day, just before Christmas, my husband unexpectedly had an alternate way to get to work and left the car home for me. This was so valuable to me, as I had a long list of holiday errands to accomplish.
But before I left the house, my landlord called to ask if I could babysit her son for the morning. Then a neighbor needed someone to care for her mother, who could not be left home alone, for a bit. Not having the heart to say no to either friend, I agreed to both requests, silently fuming with resentment. It just didn’t seem fair!
Those thoughts were anything but Christlike. But it’s the Christ that Christmas is all about. Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, makes a unique distinction between the man Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem, and his divine title, the Christ. Jesus’ life of preaching, teaching, and healing embodied the highest example of man’s true identity, made in the image and likeness of God. The Christ is the eternal divine nature that Jesus so clearly reflected and so purely lived. In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” Mrs. Eddy notes: “The advent of Jesus of Nazareth marked the first century of the Christian era, but the Christ is without beginning of years or end of days. Throughout all generations both before and after the Christian era, the Christ, as the spiritual idea, – the reflection of God, – has come with some measure of power and grace to all prepared to receive Christ, Truth” (p. 333).
As the morning wore on, I felt the grace of Christ lifting my resentment, with frustration yielding to joy. The children (mine and the boy I was babysitting), my neighbor’s mom, and I had a sweet time doing Christmas crafts. I realized that despite my well-intentioned plans with the car, the best way to prepare for the holidays that particular day was to help meet the needs of these two friends. Gratitude for the opportunity to give of my time and show Christly compassion replaced residual anger and worry. And soon a new strategy for streamlining my long list of errands occurred to me so that I could still get them done.
When everyone had gone home and my son awoke from his nap, we went on our way. At each stop we made, everything went so smoothly that it was as if the items I needed leaped off the shelves and flew into our cart. By the end of the day, I had done much more than I had thought possible, from helping two friends in need to accomplishing everything on my to-do list in record time.
Finding ways to express Christly love is a great way to prepare for the holidays. It not only celebrates the birth of Jesus, but perhaps most importantly it honors the eternal Christ-spirit that he lived. This Christmas and all year through, each of us can experience the healing effects of making room in our heart for the Christ – what the familiar carol describes as “the glories of His righteousness / And wonders of His love.”
A version of this article ran in the Dec. 6, 2018, issue of The Foxboro Reporter.