Embracing the “new birth” at Christmas, New Year’s, and always
Have you ever noticed, I mean really paid attention to, the fact that the Christmas and New Year’s Day celebrations are exactly one week apart in much of the world? A bit of online research revealed that there are some possible historical reasons why this is so, but what struck me was that I have never really connected the two in my thought. So I got to wondering if there might not be a blessing in doing so.
I love the idea of celebrating the birth of Christ Jesus. Sure, I enjoy many of the holiday traditions—the music, parties, decorations, and baking. But as I’ve grown spiritually, I find myself more and more attentive to the birth of the spiritual idea to human consciousness that the nativity of Jesus represents.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, first pointed my thought in this direction when I read this description of how she liked to celebrate Christmas: “This homely origin of the babe Jesus falls far short of my sense of the eternal Christ, Truth, never born and never dying. I celebrate Christmas with my soul, my spiritual sense, and so commemorate the entrance into human understanding of the Christ conceived of Spirit, of God and not of a woman—as the birth of Truth, the dawn of divine Love breaking upon the gloom of matter and evil with the glory of infinite being” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 262).
New Year’s, on the other hand, has always been a nonevent holiday for me. While I often give some thought to New Year’s resolutions, the late-night partying to welcome in a fresh start has felt contradictory and unappealing to me. But again, Mrs. Eddy brings light to this occasion with these brief verses that she penned on the first day of the last year of her earthly existence:
January 1, 1910
O blessings infinite!
O glad New Year!
Sweet sign and substance
Of God’s presence here.
Give us not only angels’ songs,
But Science vast, to which belongs
The tongue of angels
And the song of songs.
MARY BAKER EDDY
(Miscellany, p. 354)
That impressed me! This woman in her eighty-ninth year was still joyously anticipating good, seeing the blessing of fresh views of God’s presence right here and now. She was translating the angel songs, or messages of inspiration, that she was always listening for as the “song of songs”—the full message of what she had discovered of the Science of God and man, forever one as Principle and idea, eternal and indestructible. Her own longevity after her early years of poor health, at a time when a much shorter life expectancy was the norm, was no doubt proof to her that we always have all good to look forward to if we are looking to the infinite, God, to understand more of man’s—each individual’s—real nature and oneness with God.
Isn’t this truly what Christmas and New Year’s—and in fact, every day—are all about? We are breaking the grip of fascination with the finite, mortal story of ourselves as having a beginning, middle, and end, and singing the new song of divine Science. We are experiencing the new birth that Christ Jesus told Nicodemus would reorient him to the new/old origin of Life in God and Life as God (see John 3:1–8). We are celebrating the ceaseless unfolding of good as infinite Mind, God, infinitely manifesting its own glorious self-completeness. We are acknowledging that our real origin is, like that of Christ Jesus, as divine Mind’s pure idea. We are progressively identifying with our timeless and eternal oneness with God—with the spiritual fact that we literally live and move and experience all being as God’s expression.
So Christmas and New Year’s Day need not be two holidays—one spiritual and holy and the other secular and worldly—separated by a week. They are actually both about a new or Spirit-originated birth of holy consciousness. Mrs. Eddy declares, “The new birth is not the work of a moment. It begins with moments, and goes on with years; moments of surrender to God, of childlike trust and joyful adoption of good; moments of self-abnegation, self-consecration, heaven-born hope, and spiritual love.
“Time may commence, but it cannot complete, the new birth: eternity does this; for progress is the law of infinity. . . . What a faith-lighted thought is this! that mortals can lay off the ‘old man,’ until man is found to be the image of the infinite good that we name God, and the fulness of the stature of man in Christ appears” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 15).
“What a faith-lighted thought”: that we can celebrate every day as holy—as a clean slate with no impediment to our laying off the old man and discovering that right where that finite sense of life would circumscribe us, right there is the measureless fullness of our nature in Christ. We can begin to see that each day is full of fresh discoveries of what it means for God to be infinite Mind and for each of us to be Mind’s infinite manifestation. There are no secular days, times, or activities in Spirit’s, God’s, ever-present, All-in-allness.
As a loved hymn from the Christian Science Hymnal puts it:
Keep while ye need it, brothers mine,
With honest zeal your Christmas sign,
But judge not him who every morn
Feels in his heart the Lord Christ born.
(John Greenleaf Whittier, No. 170)
Perhaps this year our resolve can be to feel this new birth of the Christ—of our oneness with God, freshly born in our hearts every morn, every hour, every moment—for all days are God’s endless day of blessing.