The following is an excerpt from a Christmas lesson by Charles Fillmore, co-founder of Unity, that I transcribed in order to share some of his ideas spoken and written more than a century ago. I did make a few very small edits for grammar, spelling and continuity of Fillmore’s thoughts in sentence structures. Some of the verbiage and the flow of his musings may be seem odd or tough to follow – chalk it up to the culture, political climate, idioms of the day, and the ramblings of this mystic from Missouri. Merry Christmas!
Metaphysicians do not as a rule give much attention to the historical part of any celebrations or observances, but it seems to me that in order to understand the metaphysical or spiritual side of a proposition, we should know something about its history, why we celebrate it and where the celebration originated – whether it came direct from Spirit or is the result of evolution.
A man said to me yesterday, “Just what is the meaning of Christmas?” l began to explain to him that Christmas was the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, and he said, “What is that ‘mas’ in there for, what has that to do with it?”
I didn’t know and he didn’t know. I then began to look the matter up and I found in the encyclopedia that in early times they didn’t celebrate the birth of great men, but their death and they said a mass for the death, and the celebration of Christmas originally was the celebration of the death of the martyr Stephen, and they celebrated with a mass. The word “mas” means dismissal, that is, good bye. It is the closing of a service, much as we would say the doxology.
And after many years of celebrating the death of Stephen, then they included St. John in the celebration, and they didn’t celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ at all. That was an after thought because they didn’t really know when Jesus was born. He was supposed to have been born in the spring in April, but as you know we are celebrating the midwinter, the 25th of December.
All history is opposed to his having been born at that time, so this is not the celebration of the birth of Jesus, nor did the early Christians so celebrate it. As we study the history of the different additions we have made to this celebration, we find that about nine-tenths of them originated in what is called paganism, and were adopted from the pagans. Kris Kringle, and Santa Claus, the early Christians didn’t know anything about him. Kris Kringle was the God of the woods.
The early Druids worshiped Kris Kringle at very early times, and in Germany under the Roman rule they had this god of the woods inveigled into the house by bringing in a Christmas tree because he was supposed to be especially interested in trees, and if they brought the tree into the house Kris Kringle would come in and bring them presents. Among the early Christians there was no thought of presents. That was adopted from the pagans also, and as we follow the history of Christmas we find the present-day celebration originated in the pagan rites and ceremonies.
It is really not a part of Christianity, giving presents, but not always in just the attitude that we give them. If you really love to give a present to a friend, and your love goes into the giving, I think that would be right, but we have carried that out into the external and there is that universal hurry and bustle and worry to give presents until many people have nervous prostration over it long before the time comes.
As I say, it has been materialized. There is no doubt of it, and the Spirit has been lost sight of and we are going eventually to drop the giving of presents. I don’t think there is any doubt the tendency is in that direction. People are getting weary of being burdened with buying Christmas presents. It is getting to be a commercial factor and the merchants are egging us on with advertisements and our friends are giving us presents and we are expected to give them something in return, and here we go.
You might say it is a greed for giving. You can get greedy for giving if you let it run away with you, and there is a reaction setting in that I think in the end is going to be very profitable to all of us. We will spiritualize it by sending messages or the exchange of Christmas cards. That is something that is on the way at least to the real spirit of Christmas.
In the beginning angels sang that wonderful message to the whole world, “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth good will to men.” Now the time is coming and I think we are fast growing toward it when we will express that message at this time and at all times, we will have Christmas year round through giving forth that good will, that peace and that spirit of love which is the very foundation of the Christ whose birth and whose teaching and whose character we are celebrating.
I say that is to be the ultimate of the material giving of things, and we are going to spiritualize it and I have often wondered in this Unity movement if we couldn’t get people started in the right way. For example, we might begin giving a chromo for all those who didn’t give presents on Christmas. Nobody would get the prize in the present day, but we might start it. I think next year I will do that. We will begin early in the year and offer a prize to those who abstain from giving material presents and make their presents a good word, a good greeting.
In this matter of celebrating Christmas, what should be the message to get at the real Christmas? Shouldn’t it be that celebration of the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good will to men?” That is, glorify God in the highest on the earth, and peace on the earth and good will to men.
If we would all take that as a text for the next year and live by it, we would raise I believe the whole standard of thought in the world. If you could only get people to think about what it means. Of course now we just chatter it off, “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good will to men,” but we don’t mean anything. You have to get that down in your subconscious and express it. Glorify God and you will have peace and you must have good will.
If we could apply that and take that as a text for the next year what wonderful results we would get. Let us do it. That is better than preaching a Christmas sermon, that is better than doing anything that has not in it that Spirit of devotion, that spirit that goes out with the word.
Now here we are tonight to celebrate the “mass of the Christ.” This Christ mass was celebrated by the Catholics at the eucharist, that is the Lord’s supper. That is where all this music and these rituals began in that celebration of the Holy Communion. We are gathered to have this holy communion and realize that Christ mind is alive today in our midst.
Now those spiritual emanations of the Christ mind are going forth, and by putting ourselves in right relation to them we are becoming part of that ever-living One. You know that Christ is but another name for Jehovah, and Jehovah means the ever-living one and it doesn’t apply to a man or a God, but that ever-living principle. It is that masculine and feminine principle which exists in all things everywhere; it exists today, it is alive today as expressed in and through man. We don’t look back 1911 years, we look into the omnipresent now for this life-giving one.