Week 78: "My friends are surprised our churches don't have Christmas services. How can I respond to this?"

Question: "Several of my friends have been surprised to hear that our churches don't have any special services and events related to Christmas and Advent. How can I respond to this surprise? Is there a way that our churches can/should acknowledge and celebrate Christmas?"

RESPONSE 1: John Biggs

I so appreciate and admire the love for your friends, which you're expressing here!  Your desire to share our church's love for Christmas is really the Christmas spirit, expressed.  In fact, you can assure your friends of your daily devotion to everything they love about Christmas!  Far from just a pat answer, don't we truly celebrate Christmas at every church service, and doesn’t a love for Christ fill your heart every time?
In The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, Mary Baker Eddy shared a few of her thoughts about Christmas: "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" (p. 262)  Isn't that sense of birth, that dawning understanding in the human consciousness, a fundamental aspect of all our church activities, no matter what day it is? This sense of Christmas celebration carries another benefit, which is that it is doesn't depend on a specific calendar date!  It frees us from waiting for Christmas, or pinning all our hopes on some magical time, and encourages us to live everything we love about Christmas, today. Why shouldn't someone be able to walk into a Christian Science branch church, or The Mother Church, and feel a tangible sense of Christmas celebration no matter what time of year it is?
Now, this is a challenge for us to take up!  Are we willing to devote ourselves to living this dawning understanding of Christ, and sharing this just as freely as we share carols and gifts on December 25th? The more we're willing to do this, the more we'll be empowered to invite our friends (and friends-to-be!) to just "come and see" and not feel pressured to get defensive (see John 1:46 for a graceful illustration of this calm confidence).
As far as a specific way that churches can or should acknowledge the calendar date of Christmas, every church is given the beautiful gift in The Manual of The Mother Church of being distinctly democratic.  Some churches may enjoy hosting hymn sings and potlucks; some may invite the community for a Christmas-themed lecture; some may not speak of it at all and just embrace the congregation and community in quiet love.  Be willing to be a part of how your church family is moved, and to feel unafraid to share your own inspiration.
Most importantly, whatever it is that you love about Christmas, please live it every day and let that love shine!

RESPONSE 2: Rebecca Odegaard

What a wonderful opportunity to share some thoughts about Christmas with your friends, and the depth of its meaning for all of us observing it. It’s often helpful to start on common ground, maybe by assuring your friends that Christian Scientists rejoice with all the world in recognizing the earth-changing occasion of the birth of the Christ child. You might mention that our Sunday sermon that comes closest to the date Christmas falls on in a given year, is based on some aspect of what is called the Christmas Story. Several of the hymns in our denomination’s hymnal are set to familiar carols that are sung throughout the season. But more than this, you might have an opening to explain further, that the coming of the Christ child to Christian Scientists, represents the coming of God’s healing message of love for all time. The salvation from sin, sickness, and death was the central thrust of Christ Jesus’ mission. His teachings of God’s healing presence with us, or Immanuel, remain the centerpiece of the theology of Christian Science.
In our practice of daily prayer for the world, our communities, our neighbors and family members, as well as for ourselves, we are carrying on the mission Christ Jesus taught and established. We are literally opening our thought to the coming of the Christ, or Christmas, every time we look to God, which for many is just as Paul explained, to “pray without ceasing” (I Thess.5:17). It makes the occasion a moment-by-moment one in addition to the annual one we observe.
In Science and Health, which is the textbook for students of Christian Science, its author, Mary Baker Eddy describes the Christ as, “the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to human consciousness” (Science and Health, p. 332). This message imparted by God, and received by us, is the same power Christ Jesus employed when he healed multitudes, calmed the sea, and raised his friend Lazarus from death.
Reading many of the remarks Mrs. Eddy made in her writings, it is clear that Christmas occupies a reverent place. One of her descriptions points out, “This interesting day, crowned with the history of Truth’s idea, ---- its earthly advent and nativity,  ---- is especially dear to the heart of Christian Scientists; to whom Christ’s appearing in a fuller sense is so precious, and fraught with divine benedictions for mankind” (Miscellanous Writings 1833-1896, p. 320).
Celebrations do take place in many ways--some with joyous music and festivities in our communities, and others in quiet, healing prayer spent at a loved one’s bedside, or in holy moment looking into the same twinkling sky the shepherds used to guide them to the manger. In their own way, these aspects of Christmastime have their collective glory and ability to move us nearer to God and His beloved Christ.

  1. Wonderful answers, I will gladly share them with my church members.

  2. Thank you, John and Rebecca! I'm reminded of the recent Christ's Christianity podcast on this site (with Shirley Paulson and Chet Manchester), which was about how Christmas is celebrated in other Christian denominations. Since I too have often wondered why Mary Baker Eddy never instituted a specific Christmas service for Christian Science churches (whereas she did give us a Thanksgiving service, even though Christmas is celebrated worldwide and Thanksgiving isn't!), I posted this question in the comments thread for that podcast, and got a very interesting reply from another online community member. I thought others might be interested to read it as well: https://community.christianscience.com/community/ecumenicalandinterfaith/blog/2012/12/05/podcast-18-christmas-inside-christian-churches

  3. Christian Scientists actually celebrate the idea of the Christ daily. The concept of the word Christmas, seems almost lost, as many city signs posted during Christmas never say Merry Christmas these days; they say Happy Holidays. Our church movement has special Thanksgiving Service, but Mrs. Eddy did not designate a special service for Christmas in the manual. However, just about all CS Churches decorate for Christmas time, with some having special gatherings after church with food and fellowship talks. Actually, the Christ idea was really never born; like before Abraham was "I Am" in the spiritual sense. So it is assumed Mrs. Eddy believed that it did not need a special church service time; just like Easter time does not have a special service time, as it is held on a Sunday. In reality, the Christ never died, but proved life is ever infinite with the resurrection of Jesus and the CS Bible Lessons provides that support. We all need to really pray on what seems to be going on with the concept of what Christmas really is. To many young people today, it is Santa Clause, gifts, and the Christ idea seems almost lost of what true giving is all about. It has become very material to the many younger generation on what Christmas stands for. How often do we see the idea of the Christ displayed in department stores, as compare to Saint Nick with a white beard and a smile holding gifts. We as Christian Scientist have a lot of work toward improving our society we live in. Gifts were stated in the Bible for the Christ being born and when all give during Christmas, it needs to be under
    that concept, by those in today's world that love God and his Son.

  4. I don't agree that Christian Science Churches don't have special services for Christmas. Of course we do! The Christmas story is in the Lesson, Christmas hymns that we have can be sung. Other than that, it is really up to the First Reader and the members to determine how much they build on the Christ message in the Lesson. The prelude-postlude can be Christmas carols, a beautiful Christmas oriented floral display can be next to the desk. The First Reader's initial welcome can incorporate that it is the holiday season and that we are here to celebrate it and the benediction can have a Christmas message in it. Lastly, the members can express joy, peace, goodwill to everyone in attendance. Isn't that a Christmas service? Members just need to think outside the box.

  5. Good thoughts. May the inspiration and blessings of loved Christmas grow and glow thruout eternity.

  6. Being a country where majority of the people do not celebrate Christmas, our Christian Science church always has the Christmas spirit with each of the member by having a children Christmas celebration program not exactly on the 25th, but on another evening, singing carols, and from the infant to adult performing Christmas songs. Another event is inviting a professional choir singers, and they were excited to be able to share their beautiful voices, and lastly the Thanksgiving service on the 25th, so we don't feel deprived staying home on Christmas day, instead we can unite with other churches not only celebrating Christmas but to also share hugs and kisses, which is very rare in our country to be able to be that affectionate with each other as it is not our custom.

  7. Mary Baker Eddy wrote in a poem about the Christ as

    "living Love," and made a plea:

    "Fill us today
    With all thou art"

    This is the Christmas service of every moment of every day.

  8. As I opened my heart to the true message of Christmas this year, I saw something I had never noticed before: THE TEXTBOOK OF CHRISTIAN SCIENCE BEGINS WITH CHRISTMAS -- the very first paragraph of the preface!

  9. Thank you for giving more thoughtful inspiration to the question of how Christian Scientists celebrate Christmas. I think Mrs. Eddy's quote, "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." gives us much to work with.

  10. All your comments are very inspiring. Thank you so much. With love, Angie

  11. We have Christmas Services In our Churches. But they are quite different than in the other Christian Services. Christmas is celebrated in our attitudes, in our compassion for other people's, be them Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or even Athieists. We accept all as being created by God, as expressing the Goodness of God, the Love of God. Christmas is expressed through out all time, not just a given day or moment. The Christ is eternal.

  12. I agree with Gil. Each day for two weeks we read the Christmas story. This year from December 16-22 we read the lesson on Christ Jesus and the wise men and their gifts. From December 23-29 we read the lesson on Christian Science that include the story of the shepherds following the star.

    When I taught Sunday School we read about three versions of the Christmas story, all with texts from the King James version of the Bible. One had paintings from around the world. This year my husband asked whether or not we had received any religious Christmas cards. I showed him the card we had sent out (a few years ago), "The Christmas Story." This was from the Christian Science Publishing Society. A few years ago the reading room gave to the Sunday School superintendent to give to all students a set of books, the Bible and Science and Health, the metallic looking set. For one or two years a member who had grown up Baptist brought in her wooden creche scene (French for nativity scene, creche is cradle) for the children to see. Kids to touch the objects as they looked "back then." When Noah was in the lesson, I brought in an advent calendar that is a wooden Noah's ark. One opens the doors and sees an animal.

    Starting at Thanksgiving our branch church sang "all" of the Christmas hymns, so about one or two per service until Christmas. The three weeks surrounding Christmas Day we sang three settings for Blest Christmas Morn, a poem written by Mary Baker Eddy. Our organist plays first and third Sundays, but in December played three so as to include the service closest to Christmas. This year the church held a Christmas hymn sing. The service after Christmas Day we had CDs and the solo was modern and the music to go out on was We wish you a Merry Christmas.

    As for attendance on Sunday, 23 December 2012, I was underimpressed. We had three visiting couples, but fewer "regulars" than usual. Even my own children slept in on the 23rd (at a sleepover), but were up by 9 on the 25th. Hmmm.

    Understated Christmas decorations included two wreaths, one on either side of the front doors. Poinsettias were in the front lobby and "down front." The organist and her husband wore red. Ta da!

  13. We've had three Christmas Eve services at our branch church. This was something our church did as an experiment, and we've continued two more years. It is definitely an inspiring worship service composed of many hymns/carols interspersed with citations from the Bible and Mrs. Eddy's writings. We offer this to our community through a banner put up outside our Reading Room. The attendance has been about 100-150; we encourage family participation. We leave the service in a reverent, prayerful mood.