What's filling your Christmas?

Whatever our plans at Christmastime may be, letting the spirit of Christ impel our thoughts and actions brings about greater patience, grace, strength, love, and joy.

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Maybe you feel your Christmas is too full of activities or expectations after a scaled-down Christmas last year, or too full of questions about celebrating in the shadow of continued uncertainty. Or perhaps your holiday is not full enough, because you are waiting for an invitation to join friends or family.

Whatever the case, don’t we mostly need Christmas to be full of joy, full of the “on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14) that was present at the birth of Christ Jesus? Without the grace that accompanies Christ, we aren’t really celebrating Christmas, and may be left feeling empty.

When I was a college student traveling abroad, I spent Christmas in a small city in the Andes. Christmas Day without family and familiar celebrations was lonely. As I walked the streets, I sang a hymn titled “Christmas Morn” to keep myself company. It’s about the birth of Jesus, and about the eternal Christ he embodied. The hymn is a setting of a poem by Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science. This heartfelt petition at the end of the poem became my prayer:

Fill us today
With all thou art – be thou our saint,
Our stay, alway.
(“Poems,” p. 29)

“What would being filled with Christ feel like?” I wondered. Surely being filled with Christ would mean experiencing what Christ Jesus, the Son of God, experienced – joy, for example, and affection, and the certainty of being loved by God.

As I opened my heart to God’s gift of Christ to the world, the loneliness left me. Christ filled me with a warm assurance that we are all the beloved children of God, always near and dear to our divine Father-Mother. I felt the love God has for all creation, including me and all the people of that city. Walking in a light rain, I was ready to feel at home with either friends or strangers, or even by myself.

Jesus was unique in his fulfillment of the biblical prophecies regarding Christ. But the Bible also says that God is Love, and Love’s supreme power – which gave Jesus victory over aloneness and rejection – is with each of us. “Of his fulness have all we received” says one Gospel writer (John 1:16).

The spirit of Christ that we receive is our spiritual awakening to what Jesus taught about God, our creator, as ever-present Love and Life. To be full of Christ, then, is to be conscious of our oneness with God.

In a public address, Mrs. Eddy said, “Jesus’ personality in the flesh, so far as material sense could discern it, was like that of other men; but Science exchanges this human concept of Jesus for the divine ideal, his spiritual individuality that reflected the Immanuel, or ‘God with us’” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 103). Jesus knew himself as the spiritual reflection of his Father, God, and he showed us our real identity as God’s man, as the purely spiritual reflection or activity of Love.

It’s all too easy to allow the holiday season to fill with self-criticism or harsh judgment of others. But as the Christ-spirit – the consciousness of being God’s loved sons and daughters – pervades our thinking and impels our actions, we are free to practice brotherly and sisterly love. You could say Christmas is full of opportunities to treat ourselves and others as divine Love’s own children, safe and whole. By doing so, we are growing into “the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).

Our God-given nature is not a physical mind and body but our individual reflection of the fullness of God – our Christlikeness or unique expression of divine qualities, reflecting and glorifying God. Patience, for example, can help eliminate irritation within a family. Unselfishness stops fear, resentment, and fatigue. Meekness responds with grace to a change of plans. These spiritual qualities, and so many others, constitute the fullness of what we truly are as the image and likeness of Spirit, God.

When we think and act with any of the beautiful qualities that Jesus so fully lived, we will have a Christmas full of Christ. Christ continually assures us that we truly are the loved of divine Love and can feel Love’s presence wherever we are. Infinite Love leaves no one out of its tender embrace. How wonderful to know this is true this holiday, for us and for everyone we meet.

Adapted from an editorial published in the Dec. 13 & 20, 2021, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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