TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — When I was a kid growing up in San Diego, our family would usually get a call from our relatives in Indiana right around Christmastime. Inevitably and predictably they’d try and convince us that the snowy-cold Midwest was a lot more “Christmassy” than the toasty clime of southern California.
“Oh really?” would be Mom’s dry retort. “Are you familiar with Bethlehem? The last time I checked, the place was covered with date palms and olive trees, very much like the ones I see growing outside my window. And I don’t remember reading anything about the Wise Men trudging through snow on their way to the manger. If you ask me, San Diego is a lot more Christmassy than South Bend.”
Good one Mom!
These days we’re so inundated with images of icicles, evergreens, and sleigh rides that we’ve pretty much forgotten what the original Christmas must have looked like, not to mention the enduring significance of this event.
(By the way, by most accounts, Jesus was born toward the end of summer, not the beginning of winter.)
Ask almost anyone about the true meaning of Christmas and they’re likely to borrow a phrase from a popular carol: “Ummm… peace on Earth, good will toward men?” As true as this may be, to me Christmas means so much more. One of the most amazing and wonderful things about the Advent, at least in my book, is that it ushered in an entirely new era of health care.
That’s right. Health care.
Christian or not, most of us are probably familiar with the basics of Jesus’ teachings. Love your neighbor. Love your enemies. Give thanks. Don’t judge others. Keep your cool. Be generous. Pray regularly. Forgive. Fear not.
This is not just good advice but good health advice. Whether it’s cultivating an attitude of gratitude and forgiveness or arranging for a little quiet time during the day, it’s almost certain that both our minds and bodies will benefit as a result.
For years, cardiologists, oncologists, neurologists, and psychologists alike have been taking note of this connection between mind and body. Just one example is a study reported in a recent issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology that found frequent bouts of fear and anxiety increase your risk of heart attack. Consciously expressing qualities like gratitude and love can have the reverse effect.
Maintaining the right frame of mind is by no means an exclusively Christian thing. Even so, Christmas is as good a time as any to celebrate a man whose life continues to have a positive impact on the world and on our health. Remembering what month he was born or what the weather was like is up to you.
— Eric Nelson is a Christian Science practitioner from Los Altos who also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California.