December 23, 1999
The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.
When our group came up with the topic last week we wondered why none of us felt the Christmas spirit that we once had felt and whether this lack signaled a dearth of spirituality or perhaps a stage of spiritual growth. For those attending this week — an almost entirely different group — working with this topic to get some fresh inspiration proved rewarding as we steered through media hype and societal pressure to look within the practices and symbols seemingly devoid of meaning, other than perhaps on some sentimental, non-scientific level.
A couple of us decided during the week to look not only at what Mary Baker Eddy says of Christmas but also at where its symbols arose and what they might represent. Of course, Christmas is constituted mainly of pagan practices. The birth of Jesus became identified with it and was celebrated from the middle of the 4th century. The pre-existing celebrations centered on the winter solstice and the apparent return of sun light. The Romans celebrated in two ways: the so-called "sol invictus" (unconquered sun) ultimating in New Years as the sun grew brighter; and the Saturnalia, honoring the beneficence of the major earth god, Saturn, normally a rather somber presence. Gift giving and party attendance were part of both Roman holidays.
In addition, the Germanic tribes honored trees, originally oaks but eventually evergreens, as representative of ongoing life. The Christmas tree and its lore worked its way into the English speaking world through Queen Victoria's German consort, Prince Albert, but is certainly reflective of the sort of druidic remnants peeking through the standard Bible with its many references to sacred trees.
Although Christmas was once banned by Puritans in Britain and America, we were much more positive in evaluating its diverse roots. It's clearly a power-packed holiday and for us this flows from its drawing together both indigenous European and Middle Eastern notions of well-being and salvation.
This more positive, non-Puritanical idea of Christmas loosened us up enough to start putting some flesh on the dry bones or current observances. (Hence our readings from the Bible.) And then to get closer to its Science (well represented in Mrs. Eddy's writings set out above).
Coming at the darkest time of year, just as the light begins to increase, Christmas represents the Christ light speaking to benighted human consciousness. But God's unity with man wherein is "no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1: 17) is the real power behind the astronomy and the celebrations. It is understandable why so many religious systems and so much hype and excess agglomerate around this idea, but the sober student of Christian Science, seeing more than what is available through a glass darkly, will have a quiet joy of oneness with his source and the ongoing demonstration of this fact.
Three healings were reported. All seemed to indicate an awakening to the presence of God in our lives, thus individualizing the energies symbolized by our topic.
1) A member arrived at his new job one morning filled with very unloving and judgmental thoughts. He realized this mental atmosphere would result in things going badly, but was unable to control the negativity. He prayed, identifying himself as God's reflection alone. He could see that it was not helpful to pray to a supreme being but that he must actually "live in God's world". Soon he was able to see his colleagues and customers in a new light. Of course, every aspect of his day then unfolded harmoniously.
2) Another had an opportunity to awaken out of feelings of inferiority in social settings from which he had suffered for decades, apparently based on pointless but nevertheless very aggressive social gradations applied to himself and his parents by devotees of High Society in his home town. Until this week he had only a vague understanding of the origins and devastating nature of the problem. This week he and his siblings were not invited to a debut party of a cousin's daughter and after initial anger at the seeming insult he was able to uncover the whole sub stratum of the purpose of this kind of entertainment. But he did not leave it there. Availing the study he was doing on our topic, he could evaluate the whole thing as an arcane religious or tribal practice, which he did not personally want to participate in but which he could still respect by living its deepest spiritual meaning. Thereby he took a step towards religious tolerance, whether it be dancing around a totem pole or genuflecting before High Society.
3) Another had his awakening during last minute shopping. As he made manic dashes from store to store, he reached out to divine Mind for help, which came immediately. He slowed down, started making choices and even found himself knowing what sizes of garments to select. He soon realized he was actually enjoying buying gifts for others.
Our topic for next week is Millennium. We are concerned with both the negative possibilities — like Y2K and terrorism — and positive projections — like a new era or whatever, based on a dualistic sense of progress.
And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.
And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse; but thou hast kept the good wine until now.
The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect. The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.
If spiritual sense always guided men, there would grow out of ecstatic moments a higher experience and a better life with more devout self-abnegation and purity.
To be "present with the Lord" is to have, not mere emotional ecstasy or faith, but the actual demonstration and understanding of Life as revealed in Christian Science. To be "with the Lord" is to be in obedience to the law of God, to be absolutely governed by divine Love,—by Spirit, not by matter.
Christ is the ideal Truth, that comes to heal sickness and sin through Christian Science, and attributes all power to God.
The incarnation of Truth, that amplification of wonder and glory which angels could only whisper and which God illustrated by light and harmony, is consonant with ever-present Love.
The last appearing of Truth will be a wholly spiritual idea of God and of man, without the fetters of the flesh, or corporeality. This infinite idea of infinity will be, is, as eternal as its divine Principle. The daystar of this appearing is the light of Christian Science—the Science which rends the veil of the flesh from top to bottom. The light of this revelation leaves nothing that is material; neither darkness, doubt, disease, nor death. The material corporeality disappears; and individual spirituality, perfect and eternal, appears—never to disappear.
The material questions at this age on the reappearing of the infantile thought of God's man, are after the manner of a mother in the flesh, though their answers pertain to the spiritual idea, as in Christian Science:—
Is he deformed?
He is wholly symmetrical; the one altogether lovely.
Is the babe a son, or daughter?
Both son and daughter: even the compound idea of all that resembles God.
How much does he weigh?
His substance outweighs the material world.
How old is he?
Of his days there is no beginning and no ending.
What is his name?
Who are his parents, brothers, and sisters?
His Father and Mother are divine Life, Truth, and Love; and they who do the will of his Father are his brethren.
Is he heir to an estate?
"The government shall be upon his shoulder!" He has dominion over the whole earth; and in admiration of his origin, he exclaims, "I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes!"
Is he wonderful?
His works thus prove him. He giveth power, peace, and holiness; he exalteth the lowly; he giveth liberty to the captive, health to the sick, salvation from sin to the sinner—and overcometh the world!
Go, and tell what things ye shall see and hear: how the blind, spiritually and physically, receive sight; how the lame, those halting between two opinions or hobbling on crutches, walk; how the physical and moral lepers are cleansed; how the deaf—those who, having ears, hear not, and are afflicted with "tympanum on the brain"—hear; how the dead, those buried in dogmas and physical ailments, are raised; that to the poor—the lowly in Christ, not the man-made rabbi—the gospel is preached. Note this: only such as are pure in spirit, emptied of vainglory and vain knowledge, receive Truth.
Here ends the colloquy; and a voice from heaven seems to say, "Come and see."
The nineteenth-century prophets repeat, "Unto us a son is given." The shepherds shout, "We behold the appearing of the star!"—and the pure in heart clap their hands.
To material sense, Jesus first appeared as a helpless human babe; but to immortal and spiritual vision he was one with the Father, even the eternal idea of God, that was—and is—neither young nor old, neither dead nor risen. The mutations of mortal sense are the evening and the morning of human thought,—the twilight and dawn of earthly vision, which precedeth the nightless radiance of divine Life. Human perception, advancing toward the apprehension of its nothingness, halts, retreats, and again goes forward; but the divine Principle and Spirit and spiritual man are unchangeable,—neither advancing, retreating, nor halting.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CHRISTMAS
Certain occasions, considered either collectively or individually and observed properly, tend to give the activity of man infinite scope; but mere merry-making or needless gift-giving is not that in which human capacities find the most appropriate and proper exercise. Christmas respects the Christ too much to submerge itself in merely temporary means and ends. It represents the eternal informing Soul recognized only in harmony, in the beauty and bounty of Life everlasting,—in the truth that is Life, the Life that heals and saves mankind. An eternal Christmas would make matter an alien save as phenomenon, and matter would reverentially withdraw itself before Mind. The despotism of material sense or the flesh would flee before such reality, to make room for substance, and the shadow of frivolity and the inaccuracy of material sense would disappear.
In Christian Science, Christmas stands for the real, the absolute and eternal,—for the things of Spirit, not of matter. Science is divine; it hath no partnership with human means and ends, no half-way stations. Nothing conditional or material belongs to it. Human reason and philosophy may pursue paths devious, the line of liquids, the lure of gold, the doubtful sense that falls short of substance, the things hoped for and the evidence unseen.
The basis of Christmas is the rock, Christ Jesus; its fruits are inspiration and spiritual understanding of joy and rejoicing,—not because of tradition, usage, or corporeal pleasures, but because of fundamental and demonstrable truth, because of the heaven within us. The basis of Christmas is love loving its enemies, returning good for evil, love that "suffereth long, and is kind." The true spirit of Christmas elevates medicine to Mind; it casts out evils, heals the sick, raises the dormant faculties, appeals to all conditions, and supplies every need of man. It leaves hygiene, medicine, ethics, and religion to God and His Christ, to that which is the Way, in word and in deed,—the Way, the Truth, and the Life.