Christmas wisdom

Originally published in December 19, 2016, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

Think of Christmas and what may come to mind are the various things generally associated with this holiday: gifts, family, festivities, traditional foods, Christmas carols … the list could go on. 

But for many, Christmas can be best described not in terms of material things, but in terms of spiritual qualities such as love, joy, and peace, which warm the heart and represent the deeper spirit of the season. 

If you’re a Christian, you’ll probably think about the holiday’s central connection with the birth of Christ Jesus, and the momentous and prophetic role he played in the salvation of humanity. 

Clearly, Christmas can mean many things to many people. As for me, this year I’m finding that I’m appreciating Christmas in a way I haven’t before. I’m associating Christmas with wisdom. I’m seeing that the Christmas story (the account of Jesus’ birth, as it unfolds in the opening chapters of the Gospel of Matthew) offers a treasure trove of insights about true wisdom—what it is and where it comes from, and what this wisdom enables us to discern about spiritual reality.

To the vision of the Wisemen, this spiritual idea of the Principle of man or the universe, appeared as a star. At first, the babe Jesus seemed small to mortals; but from the mount of revelation, the prophet beheld it from the beginning as the Redeemer, who would present a wonderful manifestation of Truth and Love.

—Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 164


In fact, “wise men” are key figures in the story. The author indicates that these wise men came from the East to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2). 

What proved these Magi from the East to be truly wise? The narrative gives little impression that their wisdom had much to do with astrological knowledge, even though they were most likely Babylonian astrologers, men of science (as understood in their era), and they likely placed great import on the arrangement of the stars. Rather, their wisdom came through their receptiveness of divine truth. Exercising their spiritual sense, they recognized that prophecy was being fulfilled: the presence of the Christ, or Messiah—God’s divine idea—was being made evident to humanity. And they acted on this overwhelmingly powerful spiritual intuition. 

A solitary star in the sky was the only evidence the wise men had for the human appearance of the Christ—“the divine idea brought to the flesh in the son of Mary” (Mary Baker Eddy, Unity of Good, p. 59). As astrologers they would have sensed something significant about such an amazing sight as the wondrous brilliance of that radiant star, but their spiritual foresight led them to perceive something that was far more precious and inspiring: Humanity’s Savior was being born. 

And perhaps this revelation unveiled to the wise men not only the fact of Christ’s appearing, but also something of its meaning: that the Christ was here to redeem humanity from sin, sickness, and death—from the belief of life in matter with all its limitations and woes. For Christ, eternal Truth, reveals that everyone in his or her true nature is not and never has been a material construct of material atoms and elements that is subject to disease and death, but is a child of God—the offspring not of human will, but a pure, spiritual creation. That’s what we each actually are—the unique and lovely emanation of divine Spirit.  

A skeptic might think this is attaching too much importance to a single star, no matter how resplendent it shone! But the wisdom of the wise men was found not in what they saw above them in the sky, but in what they ascertained of what that star signified for humanity: salvation to all men, women, and children through Christ, Truth. Mary Baker Eddy writes of the vision they beheld, “The Wisemen were led to behold and to follow this daystar of divine Science, lighting the way to eternal harmony” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. vii). 

It humbles me to picture these wise men beholding evidence of God’s loving government of the universe at work on the human scene, and then following where that evidence led them, which meant not only visiting the baby Jesus but also discovering more of “eternal harmony”—the spiritual sense of life, the way of truth and salvation.

Am I following the path of wisdom by growing in the understanding of Christ, the spiritual idea of God?

This points out the way of wisdom for us as well—a pathway leading to ever deeper spiritual understanding. Mrs. Eddy writes: “As the Wisemen grew in the understanding of Christ, the spiritual idea, it grew in favor with them. Thus it will continue, as it shall become understood, until man be found in the actual likeness of his Maker. Their highest human concept of the man Jesus, that portrayed him as the only Son of God, the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and Truth, will become so magnified to human sense, by means of the lens of Science, as to reveal man collectively, as individually, to be the son of God” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 164).

As I’ve come to see the Christmas story in this light, it has made me ask myself some probing questions: Am I following the path of wisdom by growing in the understanding of Christ, the spiritual idea of God? Do I accept and understand Christ, Truth, as my Savior—as being with me today and always to help and heal? Do I recognize the truth that Jesus revealed: that we are each the innocent child of God, divine Love? And am I demonstrating this spiritual truth in my life, finding redemption from the belief that I am simply the product of matter? 

While these can be challenging questions, I’m deeply grateful for what the Christmas story has shown me this year: that the understanding of Christ, as well as of what Christ reveals of our real spiritual selfhood as God’s manifestation, is true wisdom. I’m grateful, too, for a clearer understanding that in actuality we already possess this wisdom—the spiritual intuition that perceives and receives Truth—because God, divine Mind, expresses its wisdom in each one of us as Mind’s reflection.

There is nothing “secret” or hidden about this wisdom from God, but it does fly in the face of what much of the world defines as wisdom. So, it’s essential that we consciously cherish the enlightened spiritual intelligence that God naturally expresses in us. For instance, the very idea that we are spiritual, not material, confounds a materially scientific understanding of the nature of human life and reproduction, and is commonly considered nothing if not foolish. 

God, divine Mind, expresses its wisdom in each one of us as Mind’s reflection.

Yet the Christmas story teaches us that wisdom is about yielding to a radically different, spiritual view of the world and creation, as presented by Christ Jesus. His virgin birth is unique as the only such birth to have happened in human history, but it invites us to ponder how such an occurrence was scientifically possible. This birth gave tangible proof that our origin is not a material embryo. We are not specks of dust randomly evolved in a material universe, no matter how compelling this illusory perspective might seem to the material senses. We are, in fact, God’s offspring, conceived by God as wholly spiritual ideas, abiding now and always in the realm of divine Mind. This is what Christ’s appearing proved for humanity.

And so, I’ve come to see that true wisdom means believing and loving the Christmas story and understanding something of the eternal presence, wonder, and availability of the divine influence, or Christ, in human consciousness (and what it reveals about our spiritual nature). Everyone has the opportunity to be a “wise man” or woman of today, as pinpointed by Mrs. Eddy. She writes: “Led by a solitary star amid the darkness, the Magi of old foretold the Messiahship of Truth. Is the wise man of to-day believed, when he beholds the light which heralds Christ’s eternal dawn and describes its effulgence?” (Science and Health, p. 95).

Worldly thought might tempt us to resist and answer “no” to that question, or at least to harbor some measure of doubt, because such thought seeks to understand reality through the lens of matter. But if we can increasingly answer “yes” with a heart full of faith, because we examine and take in reality through the lens of Spirit, then we are truly wise. Beholding more of the Christ, the shining splendor of Truth, we see evidence of the eternal Christ with us here and now through lives redeemed and healed.

That is a Christmas gift like no other; it is the gift of divine Science understood in the human heart. This gift is healing light that leads us ever deeper in the understanding of spiritual reality: the beauty of God’s infinite spiritual creation and our spiritual nature as the radiant manifestation of divine Love. This gift is the gift of wisdom.

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