Last Christmas, circumstances prevented me from attending a family dinner party. Sitting at home - alone - on Christmas Day, I asked myself, "Can I find a silver lining in this cloud?" In one sense, I could already say "Yes." I had a quiet day to think about the true meaning of Christmas. But a more complete answer to that question involves metaphysics.
Now, metaphysics may not be on the tip of everyone's tongue, but it simply means "after physics" or "beyond physics." One definition of metaphysics begins, "The branch of philosophy that ... investigates the nature of first principles and problems of ultimate reality."
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, said, "Metaphysics resolves things into thoughts, and exchanges the objects of sense for the ideas of Soul [God]" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Pg. 269).
Because my experience happened back during the holidays, I thought of that statement in relation to the Christmas gifts people exchange. I saw them as representing appreciation and love for one another. The festive dinner could be seen as a token of God's bountiful provision for all. Even the glistening tree hinted at spiritual qualities like radiance and joy. And on an even deeper level, the entire story of the nativity - including the Bethlehem babe, the shepherds, and the wise men - was one that many people were remembering. They were cherishing it, at least in part, because of Jesus' world-changing ministry of healing and teaching.
Jesus showed tangibly that God's care for His loved spiritual creation is not limited by time or physicality. So all the good that Jesus did, having its source in eternal God, must belong to us always. We can't be deprived of the joy, hope, peace, and healing he brought to earth. As the poet Whittier said, we can feel the Lord Christ born in our heart every morning (see "Christian Science Hymnal," No. 170).
A Glossary in Science and Health gives descriptions of certain Bible terms in the light of what they signify metaphysically. It says that the spiritual sense of these terms "is also their original meaning" (Pg. 579). One of my favorites is the description of ark. Part of it reads: "Safety; the idea, or reflection, of Truth, proved to be as immortal as its Principle .... God and man coexistent and eternal ..." (Pg. 581). We find safety and security when we build an ark of spiritual understanding for ourselves.
In exchanging "the objects of sense for the ideas of Soul," I find it helpful to remember that home, in its true sense, is a spiritual idea. There's never a time when we can't feel the joy, security, and love we associate with home. Because we are the image of God, the all-inclusive divine Mind, we include the idea of home and can never lose it.
By now, I hope you get some idea of resolving "things into thoughts." But how is this practical? Well, if spiritual things are the real and eternal, then being honest, reliable, and compassionate is more important than being the best-looking person on the block. Earning the respect of others is more important than building up an awesome bank balance.
If we feel there's a void in our lives, we'll find it filled as we learn more about our relation to God. We are God's offspring, created as His perfect likeness. The real you is spiritual, complete, immortal. A clear understanding of this identity has a beneficial effect on health, relationships, careers. With it, we see our purpose in life more clearly; we express greater vitality and better control of our lives. Challenging the idea that the physical universe is all there is to life, we let God's laws govern our lives.
To get back to my Christmas: in the evening a family member arrived with a shopping bag full of presents. It was a pleasant surprise. But that day would have been happy even without the presents. I had spent it close to God, thinking about and seeing His blessings.
To ensure our spiritual progress and happiness, it's good to think about God every day. In this prayer, we pull away from materialism. We exchange objects for ideas and find God's blessing, as promised in the book of Malachi: "Prove me now herewith ... if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (3:10).