I was recently singing one of my favorite Christmas carols, and this verse jumped out at me:
How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given;
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meekness will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.
(Phillips Brooks, “Christian Science Hymnal,” No. 222)
In thinking about the idea that the gift of Christ comes silently, I was reminded of the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus more than 2,000 years ago. It was a time of tremendous political and religious upheaval, with great uncertainty about the future. Amid all this tumult, Christ Jesus was born of a virgin in a manger in Bethlehem. According to the Bible, Christ’s coming was revealed to alert shepherds, who were used to working in the relative silence of the night while guarding their sheep (see Luke 2:8-18). In that quietness they received a joyful message about the birth of Jesus and the coming of the Christ.
Jesus embodied the healing and saving power of the Christ, proving by his healing work the truth of our identity as made in God’s image and likeness. He taught that we are not poor, condemned mortal sinners, left to the whims of human circumstances, but are the beloved children of God. Receiving the gift of understanding these spiritual truths through Christ brings peace to the individual consciousness, restoration of health and joy, and an overwhelming desire to love more broadly and consistently because we feel loved by God.
In describing how she liked to spend Christmas, Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, emphasized the role quietness can play in enabling us to receive this Christ gift that heals and saves.
She 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 splendor of this nativity of Christ reveals infinite meanings and gives manifold blessings” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 262).
A few years ago, my husband and I experienced the blessing of the healing that comes through Christ, when we were spending Christmas alone together in a small home in the mountains. We had no decorations or presents with us, but we did have a sense of peace and closeness to God we had been yearning to feel for months. On Christmas morning we read the nativity story in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. We also read the above and other passages about Christmas from the writings of Mary Baker Eddy.
Filled with this sense of the holiness of the day, we decided to go for a hike. But a short time into the hike, my husband slipped and fell heavily. When he tried to get up, he became dizzy and had to sit down.
As we sat among the majestic trees, some of which may have been seedlings at the time of Jesus’ birth, we were both still and prayed. Our prayer was a recognition of the healing power the coming of Christ brings to us now, in any and every situation, no matter where we find ourselves. While we cherish the holiness of the day of Jesus’ birth, this coming of the Christ is continuous, and available for all to experience.
As we pondered these and other spiritual ideas in the silent atmosphere of the coastal redwood forest we were sitting in, we were filled with gratitude for the true blessings of Christmas, bringing healing inspiration, safety, and goodness to everyone. After just a few short minutes, my husband and I got up and continued our hike, rejoicing in the fact that “the wondrous gift is given.” He had no further problems. In fact, the next day he did a solo hike from the beach to the mountains.
We had felt the tangible expression of the healing power of Christ that Christmas. We can all feel this healing power – at any time of year – exclaiming with the Apostle Paul, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (II Corinthians 9:15).