But, as part of my "Review", I must admit that I am troubled by some of our traditions today. The first part of my review I call "Christmas from Without".
"Christmas from Without" is seeing Christmas as a time for "getting", maybe even a little selfishness cranked in. Now I certainly have no problem receiving presents, and I love the excitement of thinking of great gift ideas, imagining that wonderful moment on Christmas Day when the eyes of our loved ones open wide as they unwrap their gifts and see all the wonderful things we have selected for them. But there are many struggling families do not have that privilege. Okay, there’s troubling Problem Number One. Our celebrating with gifts while others have no gifts, perhaps even going hungry and with little to celebrate, weighs on our hearts.
Another thing that bothered me while raising a family of four children, was lying to my children about Santa. Now you are really going to cast me in the role of SCROOGE on this one!!! Such an innocent "white lie" you may say. But listen and consider. We tried to be good role models and to teach our children to always tell the truth, to be honest. As a matter of fact, if they acted dishonestly, stealing a piece of gum or candy from the grocery for example, we took them down and had them meet face-to-face with the manager to tell them what they had done. Tough Love!!
These practical lessons were beneficial, showing our "little angels" that being honest, even if it means facing up to something we've done wrong, brings a sense of relief and joy, guilt giving way to a peaceful conscience. Then comes that horrible moment when you have to admit to the children that there IS no physical Santa Claus, confessing that you misled them all those years. It can undermine a lot of trust and credibility. That’s the Second Problem. And I am not even going to go into detail about the fact that one of my children could hardly sleep at night for weeks before Christmas, fearing that Santa was peeking through the window, spying. I had never really considered the consequences of “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake”, planting a fear in a child’s mind. But how can you tell them no one is peeking in the window when you have told them Santa "knows all"?
Problem Three. The building of expectation about the gifts the children want and hope to receive. The wonderful old movie, The Christmas Story, tells the tale of Ralphie, a small boy whose heart was set on receiving a BB Gun. The entire story encapsulates the scene I am describing here of a Christmas based on “getting things”!! For weeks the children dream of receiving all kinds of wonderful things and so many times it results in some sort of disappointment. Generally on Christmas Day, at least in our little family which I really believe was as loving as any, there were tears when gifts that were not really wanted were received… “MOM… You got me UNDERWEAR????? I wanted a cosmetic kit!!!” A pile of gifts under the tree representing money spent that we didn’t really have, and a most disappointing moment was when one of my children, after the kids had opened many hundreds of dollars worth of gifts said, “Is that all?”
I guess similar things may happen in many households.
But all in all, the season is joyous and wonderful and our Christmas days were fun. We loved each other and we frequently met with other family members exchanged gifts or enjoyed a meal together with many hugs and well wishes. But there were still those underlying concerns, about truth telling, about those who couldn’t celebrate like we were, like ingratitude amidst the pile of presents. But even these things pale in comparison to the fact that the real meaning of Christmas was sort of overlooked, inadvertently.
And now for “Christmas From Within”. The real meaning and joy of Christmas is in realization that Christmas day celebrates the birth of the most spiritually gifted man ever to trod the earth. His life was a demonstration of God’s presence in his consciousness, God’s influence and guidance in his life and everyday activities. Jesus’ life and teaching reflected how life can be for ALL OF US as we come to understand that we are spiritual beings, not little blobs of matter with legs, that we can rise above materiality as he did, that “life in matter” is a dream that results from our own thinking. AND, that spiritual joy beats "material things" every time. This celebration of Christmas requires NO gifts, no hustle bustle, no last minute scurrying and pressure. It is a celebration from Within.
We may not have sheep and donkeys living in our bedroom or wise men coming from afar, probably no frankincense or myrrh under the tree, but we can all receive that most precious gift that God provided centuries ago. God’s Love, Peace, Joy, Spiritual understanding… gifts which cost nothing but moments of listening, praying, trusting. They are free... to give and receive.
Christmas to me is the reminder of God's great gift, — His spiritual idea, man and the universe, —a gift which so transcends mortal, material, sensual giving that the merriment, mad ambition, rivalry, and ritual of our common Christmas seem a human mockery in mimicry of the real worship in commemoration of Christ's coming.
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.
This time of year our thoughts turn naturally to the healing Christ. It’s sweet refreshment amidst the “mad ambition, rivalry, and ritual of our common Christmas. In fact, this is the perfect time to reflect with gratitude on the past year’s healings—for ourselves, for friends and family, in our churches and communities, and in the world." (Mary Baker Eddy, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 262).