Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
Is it possible to feel peaceful in the hustle and bustle of Christmas when you're looking for just the right gifts to give? The founder of the Monitor wrote, "Only what feeds and fills the sentiment with unworldliness, can give peace and good will towards men" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Pulpit and Press," Pgs. 21-22).
Giving that's uninspired will often fall short of its expectations. If someone is giving to receive recognition, the focus is more on personal glory, and that person may not find the satisfaction he or she desires. But if giving is for the glory of God, motivated by the pure joy of showing love, with no thought of getting back, the results can only bring joy.
Christ Jesus reassured his disciples, "Peace I leave with you" (John 14:27). Christly peace is God's gift. And the Bible tells in James that "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (1:17). The gift of true peace isn't something that comes and goes.
One day our home was not feeling very peaceful. I decided to read this column in search of inspiration. That day it focused on peace as being a law of God. I was on my way out to do some Christmas shopping. And later, in the middle of all the activity, I suddenly thought of another verse from the Bible: "God is not mocked" (Gal. 6:7). Relating this to the idea that all good gifts come from God, I realized that material gift giving only tries to "mock" the perfect gift giving of God, which never varies.
For instance, the love we feel that prompts us to give a gift (often coming in a joyous, spontaneous idea) is actually a reflection, a symbol, of God's perfect love. You might say the love behind the gift is really the gift itself! The form of the gift can vary, but the love never varies, because it is of God, "with whom is no variableness."
As the sun shines, as a fountain flows, your giving to others can reflect the love of God, who gives freely because it is His nature to give. Can you imagine a fountain trying to suck back its water, or the sun trying to take back its light?
God is always giving. So, expressing His love, you and I can listen for and receive ideas that prompt genuine generosity toward others. We can quiet our sense of what we think has to be the right gift, or what we "should" give, or to whom we're obligated to give. And fresh, new ideas, perhaps never before considered, will spring forth like a fountain.
For instance, one Christmas I bought a number of boxes of note cards, which I planned to give as gifts to relatives. They had beautiful bouquets of roses on them. As I was preparing the packages for the mail, I couldn't decide whether one particular box should go to my mother or to my mother-in-law. I kept switching them. Then I decided that this was a good excuse to keep the box.
Of course, I wanted my gift giving to be the expression of love. And as Christmas approached, the idea suddenly came to me to give those cards to a neighbor. I wrapped them up and put the package on her porch. On Christmas Day, this neighbor called to thank me. She told me that I was the only one who had given her a gift for Christmas. I was so happy that I had followed this sudden, unselfish prompting to remember her.
Later my mother-in-law was visiting, and this neighbor gave her a beautiful stained-glass red rose, along with a note on one of those cards. This glass rose had been a gift to her, and it meant a lot to her. My neighbor did not have money to buy my mother-in-law anything. But listening for God's guidance, she had received the message to share the rose with her. She had asked God to guide her to a Bible verse to write on the note card, and was led to this verse: "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8).
God's gifts, expressions of Love, are truly satisfying. They do bring happiness and peace on earth. Both the giver and the receiver feel the love behind inspired gifts - perfect love. This love is really the substance of all true Christmas giving.
You'll find other articles that discuss God's gift of peace in a weekly magazine, the Christian Science Sentinel.