My childhood memories of Christmas in England are filled with twinkling lights, melodious carols, snowmen, and brightly wrapped gifts under a splendidly decorated tree. As an adult, living in Nigeria, I’ve found the Christmas season is still a bustle of festivity and goodwill, including seeing dearly loved relatives and singing inspiring hymns. Throughout the season, the Christmas message recorded so beautifully in the Holy Bible resonates from church pulpits and school plays to articles in the media.
But for some, Christmas is not “the season to be jolly,” as portrayed by the 1862 yuletide carol written by Scotsman Thomas Oliphant. For those remembering a happier time, a wistful look may cross the face; those struggling with illness may feel fear.
Yet beyond commemorating the birth of Jesus, Christmas commemorates the universal, practical message of the incorporeal Christ, the healing manifestation of Love that Jesus exemplified and which he said antedated Abraham (see John 8:58). Can not this healing Christ come to those struggling with sorrow or sickness today?
An experience I had many Christmases ago showed me that Christ is indeed “Immanuel,” which Mary Baker Eddy explains in the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” as “ ‘God with us,’ – a divine influence ever present in human consciousness” (p. xi). My toddler son was unable to keep food down and getting weaker. We were home alone, late at night, without a phone or car to access outside help.
In university, I had become a member of the Church of Christ, Scientist, and my daily Christian study had brought a deeper understanding of the Christ as God’s gift to mankind (see John 3:16). Jesus gave proofs of the practical power of God’s love throughout his life, doing good to all and healing multitudes. He promised that anyone in any age can experience the goodness and healing that come from a clearer understanding of the ever-present Christ and of God, whose very nature is Love itself. For me, the Christ is the best of all gifts and keeps giving not only at Christmas, but every day of the year.
So it’s no surprise that at this frightening time, I reached out wholeheartedly to God in prayer. Almost immediately this thought came: “Does God send sickness, giving the mother her child for the brief space of a few years and then taking it away by death?” I recognized this as a passage from Science and Health (p. 206), which articulates the universal Christ message that heals in line with God’s law.
It was an idea that took away my fear, because in that moment I knew and felt the truth of the answer: No! The nature of God is one of ineffable love for all of His children — for each of us as the spiritual expressions of His goodness.
My son fell asleep peacefully beside me. In the morning he woke up perfectly well and very hungry. What a joyous Christmas it was. All I could think of as we got ready for church that Christmas Sunday was “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (II Corinthians 9:15).
Christ, Truth, is the practical proof that we are always with God. Christ’s message speaks to every yearning and listening heart, reveler and mourner alike. It brings healing, comfort, and lasting joy despite the human circumstance. In the Bible, at the time of Jesus’ birth, it came as an angelic message to some shepherds watching their flock that night and as a bright star to the Magi, who faithfully followed it to where the baby Jesus had just been born.
Mary Baker Eddy writes, “I love to observe Christmas in quietude, humility, benevolence, charity, letting good will towards man, eloquent silence, prayer, and praise express my conception of Truth’s appearing” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 262).
This Christmas, as the streets fill with bright decorations, the lights twinkle merrily in homes, and we prepare to give or receive gifts, we can give a different gift: Whether we find ourselves in the sunny warmth of the equator or the snow of cooler climes, we can spare a moment in quiet solitude, saying a prayer for the sick and wistful, acknowledging that God’s gift of the Christ message of peace, comfort, joy, and healing reaches and touches every hungering heart. This is the underlying and overriding substance of Christmas.