WHAT is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Christmas?
For many years a decorated Christmas tree and presents were foremost in my thought. When I was a child growing up, there was the excitement of all the festivities in December. As a teenager it was boyfriends and parties. As a new parent it was the joy of providing holiday fun for little children. But after a time it seemed as though the sparkle had left. I found myself trying to manufacture ``Christmas spirit" with traditional activities and decorations. But something was missing.
I realized that I needed to find out more about Christ--more of just what Christ is and does. This new focus changed forever Christmas at our house. And I love the holidays even more now because of it. I discovered special gifts--gifts of Christ.
Jesus, who was born of Mary in Bethlehem, was the finest man who ever lived. Christ was the divine title bestowed upon him, and because his life so completely embodied the Christ-spirit we call him Christ Jesus. But Christ's presence is not limited to the historical life of Jesus.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, speaks of Christ in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She says: ``Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness." Christ is God's way of revealing Himself to mankind. And this Christ, Truth, comes to human consciousness to heal, redeem, forgive. What a gift God has given mankind through His Christ!
Seeking a better understanding of Christ brought me additional blessings, as well. It was shortly before Christmas, and I had become very ill. Yet through turning wholly to God in prayer, I was completely healed in a very short time. This healing had a profound effect upon me as I recognized the power of Christ, Truth. I treasured this new understanding like a special gift, a gift from God, from His Christ.
During the following year, whenever I would get a small glimpse of God's power, or of His love, or of His guiding presence, I would make a mental note of it, just as we remember gifts our friends give us. When Thanksgiving came around, I realized that all the blessings I had received during the year were gifts from the Christ! What bounty our family had received!
I used that period between Thanksgiving and mid-December to take notice actively of each instance during the previous year where God had revealed something of His nature to me. I found that before we ever even started our Christmas preparations, I had a roomful of presents in my heart.
Gifts from Christ last forever. They are never the wrong color or size. And they mean especially much because, although some of them have come easily, many have been dearly bought with patience, perseverance, courage, and self-surrender.
I have found that cherishing these gifts from Christ in my heart has made a big difference in my approach to the Christmas season activities. It provides an established sanctuary of peace. Within this sanctuary we can do the necessary shopping, attend the necessary functions, and have a wonderful time enjoying the festivities of the season.
This Christmas, let's make it our first priority to look for and find the true gifts from God--the gifts of Christly understanding that we have gained all year long. Let's acknowledge them, treasure them, and give them the value they deserve. As we tuck these gifts into our heart, we'll find what the Bible calls ``the mind of Christ" permeating all that we do for everyone else. And we'll have an additional gift for ourselves--a deep-settled peace.