As Christmas approaches, it seems that there are more and more tasks to do to prepare. And seeing the joy of family traditions through the eyes of my young children is certainly priceless.
Yet each year I find myself increasingly yearning to draw closer to the true meaning of Christmas: celebration of Christ Jesus, whose timeless example illustrated the eternal relevance of Christ to our everyday lives. Christ reveals to us our true, spiritual identity and relation to God. More and more I’ve been finding that in order to truly celebrate the significance of Christ Jesus, and discern the Christ he exemplified, it has been so helpful to strive to adopt his mother’s, Mary’s, spirit of humble and faithful service to God.
Think about it: It was the Virgin Mary who first embraced preparing for Christmas, so to speak. When the “angel message” came from God that Mary would bear a child – likely the last thing she was expecting that day – she didn’t question whether she was up for the task. With utter humility, she trusted God to prepare her for what was to come: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).
Mary’s spiritual sense – her “full recognition that being is Spirit,” as Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, explains (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 29) – empowered her to live that trust even in the face of hardship and others’ indifference. For instance, the law required Mary and her fiancé, Joseph, to travel a distance to pay their taxes. I can only imagine what a burdensome task this would have been for the very pregnant Mary! But they went, and even when they were turned away from lodging, God cared for them, leading them to the place in which they could welcome the baby Jesus.
How many of us can honestly say that we embrace such inner stillness, confidence in God’s guidance, and humility as we prepare to celebrate Christmas? More than once I’ve been drawn off track, distracted by to-do lists of errands and preparations. One year, we were planning to travel to spend Christmas with family. There were gifts to buy, laundry to do, suitcases to pack … and then, the sniffling started. Several other symptoms followed.
I tried to push through, mentally bellowing “I don’t have time for this!” as I hurried around town. But by the end of the day, I was in bed while my husband finished the last of the preparations.
Feeling miserable, I picked up my Bible. I have always found comfort and healing from turning to the Bible. I reread the account of Jesus’ conception and birth in the Gospel of Luke. It inspired me, but I couldn’t shake my fears about whether I would be able to make the trip the next day.
Then, out of nowhere, a question clearly came to my thought: “If Mary could make the trip from Galilee to Bethlehem while nine months pregnant, don’t you think you can handle an eight-hour drive in a Honda Civic?”
I couldn’t help but laugh. More than just a humorous reality check, that thought was a modern-day “angel,” God’s answer to my prayers. It wasn’t making light of Mary’s unique role in history, or the pure spiritual awareness that enabled her to fulfill it. Rather, it reminded me that we, too, can prepare to celebrate the ever-dawning presence of God’s love in the world today. Certainly, we can expect to be safely and lovingly cared for in our heartfelt desire to let go of personal agendas and let the Christ, divine Truth, lead us.
It was a welcome rebuke of my motives for Christmas preparations, and the fearful ruminating stopped as I thought about how God had guided Mary and Joseph on their journey. I woke up the next morning completely well. It was a holy Christmas indeed.
When we allow love for God and Christ to remain at the center of our hearts and minds, inspired by Mary’s example, we feel more of God’s harmony and direction in our day-to-day lives. And if we lose sight of that genuine Christmas spirit, we can trust God’s angels to speak to our hearts in a way that lifts burdens, eases fear and sadness, and opens thought to the promise of Christly inspiration, healing, and love. With that, we can experience more of the humility, peace, and grace of true Christmas – during this special season and all year round.