Christmas and John the Baptist

December 3, 2014

Does the beginning of Science and Health remind you of any particular holiday? If you don’t have your textbook handy, here is the first paragraph of the Preface (vii:1):
To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is
big with blessings. The wakeful shepherd beholds
the first faint morning beams, ere cometh the full radiance
of a risen day. So shone the pale star to the prophet-
shepherds; yet it traversed the night, and came where, in
cradled obscurity, lay the Bethlehem babe, the human
herald of Christ, Truth, who would make plain to be‐
nighted understanding the way of salvation through Christ
Jesus, till across a night of error should dawn the morn‐
ing beams and shine the guiding star of being. The Wise‐
men were led to behold and to follow this daystar of
divine Science, lighting the way to eternal harmony.
Wakeful shepherd…, cradled obscurity…, Bethlehem babe…, guiding star…, and Wisemen… are all Christmas symbols, and isn’t it wonderful that Mrs. Eddy began her textbook heralding the Advent, the first season of the Christian church year!  Of this holiday season, Mary Baker Eddy wrote in Miscellany, “Again loved Christmas is here, full of divine benedictions and crowned with the dearest memories in human history — the earthly advent and nativity of our Lord and Master. At this happy season the veil of time springs aside at the touch of Love. We count our blessings and see whence they came and whither they tend.” (My. 256:17)
Our Wednesday readings will be following the advent story beginning with the birth of John the Baptist, a New Testament prophet and cousin of Jesus who “prepared the way of the Lord.” (Is. 40:3) Then on the following Wednesdays, we will be reading the nativity story through the eyes of Joseph (Matthew’s version), and then through the eyes of Mary (Luke’s version).
The readings on John the Baptist begin with some of the earlier comparable prophets, including Jeremiah who saw “an almond tree.” According to the Bible commentaries, an almond tree is an early blooming tree, and the Hebrew word for “almond” comes from a root word that means “awake” or “wakeful.” How appropriate, then, for Luke to begin his nativity story with John the Baptist!