Not too long before Christmas one year, my university offered its alumni the opportunity to buy class rings at very reasonable prices. I decided to order one.
The woman taking my order over the telephone said that many customers were demanding that their rings be delivered by Christmas Day. Some had even threatened her! She sounded relieved when I said there was no rush on my order, and she thanked me for my patience.
My first thought after I hung up, though, was, "I sure hope it does get here by Christmas." I had to laugh at myself. And my heart went out to the workers taking orders and making deliveries, as well as to the people who were anxiously awaiting the arrival of their presents.
Over the years, I have been in situations where I've longed to give someone the perfect gift. I've scoured stores, and have sometimes become frantic to find either a greatly desired object or to figure out what someone dear to me would like. One day, a particular Bible message took on a new meaning for me in relation to gift-giving. It is in the book of James in the Bible: "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" (James 1:17).
I love the thought of every gift as having its ultimate source in God. Not that God provides microwave ovens and Pokmon. But the love these gifts represent does come from God. This love doesn't actually need a delivery person to get it there on time. Nor does it come only at one time of year. Yet it's at Christmastime in particular that our spiritual sense of love echoes the gift of God's love, which many people find in the life and work of Christ Jesus.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, wrote frequently of God as divine Mind. As God's children, or Mind's ideas, each of us has the intelligence, wisdom, and foresight of this Mind. We can express these qualities through thoughts and words and actions. And this expression helps us to escape the pressures of the holidays so that it's easier to discern what we really need to be doing and giving.
In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mrs. Eddy wrote, "The perfect Mind sends forth perfection, for God is Mind" (pg. 239). To the extent that we follow Mind's guidance, we will find some degree of this perfection expressed - even in simple tasks such as the quest for good gifts.
Why is this so? Because ultimately what makes our efforts to find things that please other people successful is the love that motivates us. Since this love has a very real basis in God, who is Love, it is perfectly legitimate for you or me to ask for, and to expect to have, divine help when shopping online or at the mall.
Once when I needed a gift for a special friend, I started out with a mental list of stores that seemed to be likely prospects. But as I prayed, I thought of going to a store that it seemed certain would not have the type of gift I was looking for. When I got there, a new shipment had come in of items that were more perfect than anything I had even imagined I'd find.
When Love guides, we can also expect to be less wearied by the process. Love has a way of refreshing us when we're tired, making us more alert, and helping us to appreciate those who are trying to assist us. Instead of snarling and shoving, we can actually enjoy making a conscious effort to be patient and kind.
Love helps establish priorities - not just for shopping but for all the activities that get crowded into the Christmas season. It is part of the spiritual basis of Christmas. It celebrates God's own love for humanity.
Be kindly affectioned one to
another with brotherly love; in
honour preferring one another;
not slothful in business; fervent in
spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing
in hope; patient in tribulation;
continuing instant in prayer;
distributing to the necessity of
saints; given to hospitality.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society