There’s a touching scene in the TV classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas” where Charlie Brown, disappointed with the over-commercialization of the holiday, exclaims, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” To this, his trusted friend Linus responds by reciting the story of Jesus’ birth from the book of Luke in the Bible:
“’And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, good will towards men.’ That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
Indeed, despite all the holiday hoopla we’re accustomed to seeing this time of year, the birth of Jesus – the man Mary Baker Eddy describes as “the human herald of Christ, Truth, who would make plain to benighted understanding the way of salvation” – is what Christmas is all about, an event that changed the course of history and gave rise to one of the world’s great religions.
Jesus’ teachings are perhaps best summarized in what’s known as the Golden Rule: “…all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” The imperative here is not simply for everyone to do his or her best to get along, but to consciously, consistently, strive to express such inspired sentiments as gratitude, forgiveness and compassion, even under the most trying circumstances.
When you think about it, though, the true meaning of Christmas goes well beyond making this world a better, more pleasant place to live, as helpful as that is. Even if you don’t consider yourself particularly or even partially religious, it’s hard to deny the impact that Christ’s example of love continues to have on our health.
That’s right. Our health.
Although it may have taken close to two thousand years for us to figure it out, the very same sentiments extolled by Jesus and, to be fair, other religious leaders as well can have a significant and measurable influence over the way we see the world, the Divine, and our relationship to it all, the result being not just a better attitude but often a better body.
Just one example can be found in a study done by researchers Steve Cole and Barbara Fredrickson. In an article about their work, Stanford researcher Emma Seppala writes: “They found that people who were happy because they lived the ‘good life’ (sometimes also known as ‘hedonic happiness’) had high inflammation levels but that, on the other hand, people who were happy because they lived a life of purpose or meaning (sometimes also known as ‘eudaimonic happiness’) had low inflammation levels. A life of meaning and purpose is one focused less on satisfying oneself and more on others. It is a life rich in compassion, altruism and greater meaning.”
In other words, by doing “whatsoever ye would that men should do to you,” we’ll all be a lot happier and healthier.
The angel message that caught the attention of those wandering shepherds so many years ago continues to inspire each and every one of us today – a potent and persistent reminder of the true meaning of Christmas, even the hope of health and healing for us all.