From the Bible
In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered, and she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid in him a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in that region, there were shepherds out in the field keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shown around them, and they were filled with fear.
And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid, for behold I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a savior who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.
Christmas is full of magic and wonder, enabling us to see with the eyes of new understanding and love. It is not difficult for a child to get excited about Christmas. The very words, “Christmas is coming” should fill each of us with a sense of joyous anticipation, just as it did when we were children. We will know that enthusiasm and joy when we allow the wonder of Christmas to work in us, to inspire us, and to awaken the spiritual element of ourselves.
Thomas Ford, a seventeenth century composer and poet, wrote about preparing a new kind of welcome for Christ in our hearts. He pointed out the effort we would go to if we were expecting a king to visit our home:
Yet if his majesty our sovereign lord
Should of his own accord
Friendly himself invite,
And say“I’ll be your guest to-morrow night.”
How should we stir ourselves, call and command
All hands to work! “Let no man idle stand….”
The poet details the countless preparations that would be made gladly for the king’s visit.
We would no doubt be delighted and honored to do all we could to entertain him:
And after all our travail and our cost,
So he be pleas’d, to think no labour lost.
But at the coming of the King of Heaven
All’s set at six and seven….
Unfortunately this sometimes is a good description of what happens with many
people in preparation for Christmas. Cooking, shopping, addressing cards,
wrapping presents, and dozens of other duties keep many people rushing
madly throughout the season. The poem continues:
Christ cannot find a chamber in the inn.
We entertain Him always like a stranger.
And, as at first, still lodge Him in the manger.
Is it possible that, having gone through many Christmas experiences, it is too familiar to us?
Do we get so involved in the outer activities that we have lost some
of the wonder and intrigue? When we begin to think that Christmas is
just more of the same old thing, we are responding to Him as did his hometown
friends when He came back to visit them after beginning His ministry.
Imagine the synagogue in Nazareth that Sabbath day when Jesus entered “as His custom was.” Jesus was a regular churchgoer. He went to church no matter where He was. Can you imagine the townspeople craning their necks to get a look at this one of their own who had come to read from the law and to preach? Each Sabbath the reading from the Law, or Torah, comprising the first five books of the Bible, was an established custom. After each such reading, the custom was to ask a member of the congregation, or a visitor, to read his own selection from one of the prophets and to preach on it as he wished. He would stand up to read and sit down to preach.
It seems natural that the ruling elders of the synagogue would have asked Jesus to read. He was an old friend whom they had not seen in some time. Jesus read from the Book of Isaiah: “Because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor, He hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives, And the recovering of sight to the blind, To set at liberty them that are bruised, To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord!” (Isaiah 61:1) As Jesus sat down and the eyes of the people were on Him, He said, “Today hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears.” Do you think the people got excited and realized their Savior had come, that this was their day of miracles? Of course not. He was one of their own. Many had known Him as a child and knew His family well. What did He know? The people actually became resentful of Jesus.
Even though Christmas may have become usual and ordinary, we do not need to reject the idea or even celebrate begrudgingly. We ought to look deeply for the spiritual significance of this special season so that we can enjoy the experience and benefit from its many spiritual ideas.
As the Christmas season approached, a businessman attended a religious lecture. The speaker advised, “Do not condemn Christmas, saying that it is becoming commercial. There is nothing wrong with the practice of gift-giving that is associated with the Christmas season. The Wise Men of old instituted the practice on that first Christmas more than two thousand years ago. It is a fine custom, because it causes mankind to invoke the basic law of life, which is giving and receiving.” Most of us readily agree that more attention is given to giving and sharing with others at Christmas than any other time of year. That attitude and practice should be encouraged.”
The speaker went on to say: “If you have not as much to give as you would like, you can still give! You can give thoughts and prayers of peace where there seems to be confusion. You can give prayers and thoughts of life where there is illness. You can give prayers and thoughts for substance where there is lack. You can give love where there is inharmony.” He realized that we have more to give than just material things. In whatever way we desire, we ought to give, give, and give more during this holiday season. We can give in tangible ways and in intangible ways. Let each gift be given in recognition of the Christ child that is within the soul of the person to whom we give. When you do give, enter into the real spirit of the giving, freely and abundantly, without strings attached. By so doing, we extend great blessings far beyond the things given. Be excited about giving. That will help open the channels of good through which you will also receive.
Catherine Ponder, author of The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity, writes of a businessman who had desired for many months to rent some business property. A short time before Christmas, he realized that he would first have to make some expensive repairs on the property. His first reaction was, “There goes my Christmas money. With this additional expense, I can’t afford to give this year.” A friend reminded him that if he wished to receive what he needed (the rental of the property), he must keep open all channels to his present good by giving.
After thinking it over, he decided that not only did he want the law of giving and receiving to operate for him, but he sincerely wanted to give to some relatives and friends. He went shopping with a happy state of mind, purchasing gifts that he felt appropriate. With each purchase he felt his concern about his financial affairs lifting. One night just before Christmas, as he and his wife were wrapping the presents, came a knock at the door. The caller was a prospective buyer for the property. Although up to this point he had only thought of renting the property, now here was an opportunity to sell. A few days later, another buyer approached him. The owner realized that although he had attempted to rent the property for months, absolutely nothing had happened until he got into the joyous experience of giving. His troubles were over. Isn’t it interesting that Christmas seems to precipitate attitudes of love, caring, and giving that should be a natural part of our experience in living? The pattern was set by the Wise Men who came to see the Christ child bearing rich gifts for the unknown baby. They had traveled far. Legend states that they were accompanied by camels and servants as would be befitting men in their position. They were attired in rich, beautiful clothing and adorned in turbans and jewels.
They were so sure that the long-awaited birth of the Christ had taken place that they came bearing rich gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
They did not first go check him out as many might today. They came in faith that their prayers had been answered and brought gifts accordingly.
Consider the gifts they gave: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold was an especially rich gift to give the child, for it came from nowhere in the area. Not only that; it is a precious metal, symbolic of prosperity and plenty. We should seek to embed within our consciousness the ideas of prosperity, abundance, and plenty. In this way, what we have goes further, and we seem to attract good in various forms.
The gold that the Wise Men brought Jesus represents the riches of God—our spiritual gifts. Notice that Jesus never lacked for any good thing that He desired. He had a rich consciousness of the omnipresent riches of divine substance out of which everything is made. To be able to do this, we must charge our mind with rich ideas of plenty. Another gift the Wise Men gave Jesus was that of frankincense. Frankincense is a fragrant gum resin, commonly burned as incense. It produces a pleasant aroma leading to a pleasant atmosphere.
Jesus was able to bring beauty and pleasantness into the lives of others. He treated material things as if they were also a part of the infinite good of God, and thus they seemed to become spiritualized and carried with them great significance. Along with outer actions that help to produce pleasantness and beauty, we can through a smile, a kind word, and a joyous attitude put pleasantness into all we do in getting ready for Christmas.
Work daily to keep your thoughts pleasant and beautiful. Plan on making this season a happy one for you and for others. Little actions go far in making life pleasant. Let this gift manifest through joy, happiness, and pleasantness in your manner, actions, and surroundings. Thus, the ordinary and commonplace is transmuted into the spiritual. The third gift the Wise Men brought Jesus was that of myrrh, a bitter-tasting gum that is used to make incense, perfume, and medicine. It is believed to represent the ointment of love that allows us to turn the bitter into the sweet, to break down the barriers of separation from God and others and establish an out¬working of harmony and order.
Christmas is a time of “peace and goodwill” when many people drop the antagonisms and wrong feelings and enter into the Spirit of Christmas itself. Myrrh also represents the eternality of Spirit that is ever with us. Through dissolving wrong feelings, we open our lives to experience the activity of Spirit in daily living. This gift brings about healing and wholeness. When barriers are dissolved between an individual and others, and the individual and God, healing in any needed area will occur. Turn all bitterness and unhappiness into the sweetness that comes through awareness of the birth of the Christ in you. You have the power to give and receive beautifully during this special holy season. Your resources are unlimited. You have much to give, both tangible and intangible. Let the qualities of love, peace, joy, and goodwill permeate everything you do during the Christmas season.
Rev. Joyce Kramer is one of the most prolific inspirational ministers notonly in America but across the world. She is the founder of Unity Church of Tide water in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where she taught
principles of positive Christianity for more than fifty years. Her radio broadcasts have reached listener saround the world. She now over sees Joyce Kramer Ministries and is at work on a new book entitled,
God’s Twelve Gifts to You.