WINTER, at least where I live, is a time for coats, parkas, scarves, gloves, and boots. But even the warmest winter clothing can't necessarily insulate us from all of winter's cold. Coldness -- at any time of year -- can come in other ways. A cold heart, for example, showing itself in critical attitudes. Or a persistently gloomy outlook that resists letting the light of joy shine in one's daily life. And sometimes there's also the feeling of suffering physically from the weather -- colds, influenza, and the like. But the Bible mentions a garment that will help shelter us from any form of cold. It's the ``garment of praise'' talked about in Isaiah. The passage begins with the words ``The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me'' and then goes on to say that Spirit gives us ``beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.''
From all that Isaiah says, we can see that praise means more here than just cheering up or saying nice things. Because it is derived from God, divine Spirit, this garment is woven from a deeply spiritual form of praise. It wraps us in an understanding of what God is and who man is in God's image.
If we were to accept the everyday view of existence as sometimes happy, sometimes gloomy, with our own outlook going up and down like the temperature and weather, then praise wouldn't help very much. Such an outlook doesn't leave much room for praise because it doesn't take seriously the Biblical idea that divine Spirit created man to express beauty, joy, and praise.
Christian Science can really help here because it shows us the endless spiritual things about man and creation that give joy and are praiseworthy. Since God, as man's creator, uses only His own perfect, spiritual nature as His model, man -- our genuine identity -- is made in His spiritual likeness. So the spiritual beauty, joy, and brightness in our own being are permanent. They don't come and go, because they are given to us by God and are not a personal possession.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, speaks many times of man as made in God's likeness. At one place in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures she says: ``God fashions all things, after His own likeness.... Love, redolent with unselfishness, bathes all in beauty and light.... The sunlight glints from the church-dome, glances into the prison-cell, glides into the sick-chamber, brightens the flower, beautifies the landscape, blesses the earth. Man, made in His likeness, possesses and reflects God's dominion over all the earth.''
As the sunlight of God's presence pours its spiritual warmth into our hearts, we may well gain surprising, renewed views of some familiar faces and places. Christ Jesus often acted in ways that revealed this spiritual light in others' lives. One memorable time came when he joined two of his followers as they walked to Emmaus.
This walk took place so soon after Jesus' resurrection that these disciples still believed him to be dead. And they did not recognize him as he joined them. The true spirit of what Christ Jesus was saying to them, however, broke through their sadness. As they ate together that evening, ``Their eyes were opened, and they knew him,'' as Luke tells us.
Can't you imagine the warmth and joy that came through the presence of Christ! How quickly that heavy cloud of gloom and depression broke apart! Because God is unchanging Love, all that His creation, man, needs is present, now. It's not really a question of changing things for the better, because God has already made His spiritual creation perfect. Of course, like Jesus' two followers, we may need to learn to recognize the Christ and see what is already here.
That requires regular prayer and regular praise. Just as we wouldn't deliberately go out without a coat on a cold winter morning, so we shouldn't forget to pray and praise the goodness of God's creation. Our prayers may begin simply as a quiet recognition of the presence of God in our lives each day. But however our prayers begin, the praise that follows will also include the people in our lives every day. Our prayer and praise are full of gratitude for the good in their actions because such goodness is evidence of God's goodness and His presence. This is what really brightens and warms our lives -- even in winter!
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Bless the Lord, O my soul.
O Lord my God,
thou art very great;
thou art clothed
with honour and majesty.
Who coverest thyself with light
as with a garment....
Oh Lord, how manifold are thy works!
in wisdom hast thou made them all:
the earth is full of thy riches....
Thou sendest forth thy spirit,
they are created:
and thou renewest
the face of the earth....
I will sing unto the Lord
as long as I live:
I will sing praise to my God
while I have my being.
My meditation of him shall be sweet:
I will be glad in the Lord.
Psalm 104:1, 2, 24, 30, 33, 34