What Christmas means to me
To me, Christmas means exactly those “tidings of joy to all people” that the angel told the shepherds in Luke 2:11. But to Mary Baker Eddy, based on her well-known article by the same title, it means something quite different. The sharp divergence had a lot to do with my leaving Christian Science for biblical Christianity.
“Unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord,” says the angel. A human baby, Christ by name, arrives at a specific earthly time and place and for a specific divine purpose: our salvation. Christmas means just that to me. On what higher authority should I believe it means anything else?
Mrs. Eddy, however, claiming higher authority, pointedly denies the proclamation of Luke 2:11. “Christ was not born of the flesh… of matter… of a woman,” she writes. Indeed, Christ was “never born” at all. According to the Christian Science founder, Christmas merely “commemorates the birth of a human, material, mortal babe,” period.
So much for another favorite Scripture, Matthew’s statement that the virgin’s son would called, in fulfillment of prophecy, “Emmanuel… God with us.” At a dark time when I was feeling distant from God and defeated by my imperfections, this incarnational Jesus with his saving grace seemed like a lifeline to me. I felt that Mrs. Eddy, in claiming he was nothing of the kind, was being uncaring, unfair, and untrue. Christmas, together with Easter, brought me to a choice between him and her. I chose him, and have never been sorry.
Singing all the traditional carols during my 40 years as a Christian Scientist, I somehow filtered out the plain biblical meaning in line after line. Only after coming to the cross did I see what had been there all along. “Christ is born of Mary,” it says in Little Town of Bethlehem. But was he? Not in Christian Science belief, which thus voided the plea and hope of a later verse: “O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray. Cast out our sin, and enter in: be born in us today.”
Why close ourselves off and exclude ourselves from that beautiful and transformative coming of Jesus Christ? It’s up to each person, but my decision was to stop doing so. What a difference it has made in my life ever since.
Christian Scientists, of course have their own hymn or carol for the nativity-that-wasn’t, Mrs. Eddy’s poem “Christmas Morn,” which they understand to be theologically correct in a way that the old, sentimental songs of the season are not. In addition to devaluing the Bethlehem babe exactly as the previously discussed article does, the poem includes this prayer: “Dear Christ… no cradle song, no natal hour and mother’s tear to thee belong… Fill us today with all thou art, be thou our saint, our stay, alway.”
I don’t know about you, but between the messes I’ve made in my life and the blackness in my own heart, I need more than a saint or a stay. I need a Savior, the Son of God incarnate, born in the flesh to share my humanness, crucified for my sins, risen and ascended to the right hand of the Father where he intercedes for me even now. Christmas according to Matthew and Luke offers me that Savior, Christ the Lord, God with us. Christmas according to Mary Baker Eddy does not. What does Christmas mean to you?
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org