"Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store," the Grinch concluded, in the writings of Dr Seuss.
But if it did come from a store, it would probably be from a store like the one I saw on the main strip of York, Western Australia. Instead of selling used goods as unwanted throwaways it classified them as "pre-loved treasures".
Who could fail to be lured into a second-hand shop that so highly values what it has to offer?
Which could also prompt us to ask: do I think highly enough of what I have to offer?
At the heart of Christmas is the Bethlehem babe, who later went on to preach that we are to love our neighbours as ourselves. Not instead of ourselves or despite ourselves but as ourselves. The all-inclusive love Jesus was teaching, therefore, includes the call to each of us to look after "number one", too. So that's a gift we can accept this Christmas and all year long: the gift of divinely sourced self-approval!
Of course, Jesus wasn't sanctioning the kind of self-love that seeks self-promotion at the expense of others. He evidenced the opposite of that in his own spiritual walk of healing and teaching those who hungered for a better life.
Rather, his words and deeds point to our divine right to feel heartfelt self-approval on a spiritual basis of knowing who we each are as the divinely cherished, individual expression of infinite Love.
To me, that's the heart of the Christmas story. The Bethlehem babe actually came to show us we're not the miserable sinners we sometimes believe ourselves to be -- whether because a harsh theology has told us so, or because a harsh inner voice keeps telling us so.
Quite the opposite. In the view of divine Love we are spiritual innocents. And I've found that when I've understood this to be true - sometimes quickly, sometimes through prayer and persistence - I've experienced all kinds of healing, including reversals of unhappiness, lack, loss, and sickness.
And, yes, even of "sin". If you translate that word as "missing the mark" -- from its roots as an archery term -- overcoming sin looks a lot less like giving up something good and a lot more like gaining liberty from traits and habits that would want to drag us down.
Winning the struggle with such traits and habits may not always be quick, but it is possible. It involves persistently challenging the material sense of ourselves as made up of matter and all that can stubbornly seem to consist of. Instead, we can humbly take to heart what the Bible says, that we are made "in the image and likeness" of God, divine Spirit, and so are truly spiritual. This spiritual nature consists of a goodness that undermines the claim of those traits to have the power to stubbornly stick around.
As a hymn I love puts it: "Thou art Truth's honest child, Of pure and sinless heart; Thou treadest undefiled In Christly paths apart." (Christian Science hymnal.)
More than anyone else ever has, Jesus evidenced the liberating nature of walking in those "Christly paths" apart from the prevailing materialism of the day. That's why he uniquely has the title Christ Jesus. But in healing the sick and empowering the reformation of many making self-destructive life choices he was demonstrating the underlying spiritual nature of us all.
In this way he came to prove who God truly creates us to be, so that we can understand why it is we inevitably do deserve His never-ending love.
Clearly, all the treasures in all the stores in the world - new or "pre-loved"! - couldn't bring us the joy that feeling such divine Love can bring us.
But it is the gift God is freely giving each of us this Christmas, and every single day of the year.