Tuesday, 6 December 2016

A Childhood Memory of an Abstract Christmas

Growing up in Christian Science, with my mother as a radical believer in it, resulted in a major disagreement between us. It was to herald the first of many but it was early days for me, within Christian Science, and I was still sufficiently young enough to be attracted to the commercialisation of Christmas via the local shop window!

It all began in early December when I saw a box of coloured foil angels. All that was required was to assemble them by folding and sliding the tabs into pre-cut slots, inserting a coloured thread (all provided) and then hanging them on the Christmas tree. I can see them now -gold, silver, red, blue, green and purple. I was about six or seven and every time we walked past the shop, I would stand for ages, staring at them. I knew my mother did not approve of them. Maybe, I thought that the longer I stood looking at them, then that would convince her that I really wanted them! I could think and talk about nothing else that I wanted to decorate our tree.

And so it began. Every mention I made about angels was counter- philosophised with the words of Mary Baker Eddy. Her definition of angels was considered by my mother to be the one and only true doctrine! Mary Baker Eddy defines angels (in her book, Science and Health) as, "God's thoughts passing to man, spiritual intuitions...." This posed a dilemma for us. My mother was determined that I should be brought up as a Christian Scientist and therefore, there was no need for physical manifestations or human ideas of what angels might look like! That was all material and we were supposed to be concentrating on the spiritual meaning of Christmas!

I had the inevitable conflict of being a Christian Scientist but also being a young child at school where the Nativity play depicted young children dressed as angels! Didn't the angels appear to the shepherds and speak to them? Why did we sing carols at school? What did it mean if we could not hark the herald angels sing or if the angels could not wing their flight over all the earth? Was the Christmas story incorrect? How could the choirs of angels ever sing in exultation?! It was confusing! I knew the angels were pretty and colourful and merely a decoration but to deny the actual existence of them, within the Christmas story, was unthinkable!

As an adult, I appreciate and love singing Christmas carols. As a child, I had to pretend to sing carols while I was at school.  When I was a Christian Science child, my mother forbade me to sing many of them because of their perceived "false doctrine". I am struck by re-reading Mary Baker Eddy's book, "Christ and Christmas" that she wrote the following, in part, "Yet wherefore signalize the birth of him ne'er born?"

 If you enjoy singing carols, now you have left Christian Science, sing loudly! Do share if you have any memories of a childhood Christmas within Christian Science!
 Oh, a relative who was not a Christian Scientist bought the box of "angels" and helped me place them on the tree. Nobody in our home dared to argue further on the matter. I like to think, for once, I was allowed to enjoy some reality. Happy Christmas!

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