From the Papers: A notable Christmas sermon

November 15, 2021

-

Portrait: Mary Baker Eddy, c. 1884. P00250. Text: “The Nativity of Jesus,” A10367. Sketch: Horticultural Hall, E2013002. Star: Cover of Christ and Christmas by Mary Baker Eddy.

On December 26, 1880, Mary Baker Eddy delivered a Christmas sermon, “The Nativity of Jesus,” at Horticultural Hall in Boston, Massachusetts. Located at 101–102 Tremont Street, the mixed-use building housed the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, with stores on the ground floor and the Society’s library and several halls on its upper floors. The halls could be rented for concerts, entertainment venues, and other functions, and it was here that the Church of Christ (Scientist) held services.

Eddy preached that day on the prophetic text from Isaiah “For unto us a child is born” (9:6). The Mary Baker Eddy Papers includes two drafts of the sermon that are fully transcribed and annotated: A10367 and A10085.

This sermon offered a new and radical interpretation of the life and work of Jesus. And many phrases within it are likely familiar to readers of Eddy’s works today. For example, it was here that she introduced wording she would modify and return to in other references to Christ and his unique role: “Millions of children were born before the babe of Bethlehem, but they were not heralded by angels or tokens in the heavens[.] History furnishes the fact, that the meek Nazarene was the most conspicuous character that ever trod the globe.” In other documents in the Mary Baker Eddy Papers, we find her repeating words such as conspicuous, and referring to Jesus as the “best” or “most Scientific” man to ever trod the globe.

She also expounded here on the importance of Mary’s experience of a virgin birth and on Mary’s spiritual intuition as being essential to Jesus’s later healing mission:

In Mary’s meek conception of God’s man, the Judean shepherds saw the ever-present good the Immanuel the God with man, and the virgin mother saw her own son; her own thought embodied in its purity[.] The vision of Mary rose above the maternal instinct of the flesh and gave place to prophecy – mutely she pondered his earthly fate[.] She was not blind to the necessities of his God mission on earth — that the divine must touch the human and the human would struggle with the divine.1

Just as the phrase “ever trod the globe” is familiar to readers of the current edition of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, they will recognize this passage from her sermon: “The silent light, drawing artists pictures, cheering the cot, gilding the palace, gleaming thro’ the lattice, glinting upon the church dome, glancing into the dungeon, gliding into the sick room, brightening the flowers, beautifying the landscape, blessing the world, is not egotistical, but the loud whirlwind, ‘a sign and product of disunion and weakness, which passes on and is forgotten.”2 In the current edition she wrote, “Love, redolent with unselfishness, bathes all in beauty and light…. The sunlight glints from the church-dome, glances into the prison-cell, glides into the sick-chamber, brightens the flower, beautifies the landscape, blesses the earth.”
3

It appears that Eddy first used a version of this Christmas sermon’s text in the third edition of Science and Health, published the following year, in 1881. On page 117 of its second volume4 she wrote, “Love sends forth Her unselfish and enduring ideas…up to the kindling sun, shining on all, glinting on the church-dome, glancing into the prison-cell, gliding into the sick-room, gilding the cot, brightening the flowers, beautifying the landscape, blessing the world.” She edited the wording over the years until, in the 385th edition, published in 1906, she finally settled on the passage as it appears today.

Eddy closed her sermon by introducing Christian Science as the babe, the Truth, that had arrived to heal humanity:

Mary’s spiritual conception of … being, — that God is the only Father of man, — is reinstated, and again the shepherds shout, ‘for unto us a child is born’, a new idea hath appeared! And we have seen the star in the east, the divine Science that guides thereto, The Truth has dawned upon us — that Spirit is the only Life, Substance and Intelligence of man; and just as it came to the waiting wise men of old, it comes to the waiting heart today, a Prince of peace, healing the sick, casting out error raising the dead, lifting our sense of life from matter to Spirit; — and of the increase of His government there shall be no end. But this babe of Christian Science, the age layeth again in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, nursed in obscurity, for the Herods of today decreeth its death. But fear ye not little flock, this son of God, this offspring of Principle abideth forever.5

From sermon to textbook, Mary Baker Eddy emphasized the healing and abiding presence of the Christ. More sermons are available at the Mary Baker Eddy Papers website.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
  1. Mary Baker Eddy, 26 December 1880, A10367, https://mbepapers.org/?load=A01367
  2. Mary Baker Eddy, 26 December 1880, A10085, https://mbepapers.org/?load=A10085
  3. Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (Boston: The Christian Science Board of Directors), 516.
  4. Science and Health was published in two volumes at this time.
  5. Mary Baker Eddy, 26 December 1880, A10367, https://mbepapers.org/?load=A01367