WHEN a certain Christmas card arrived in the mail, I felt deeply hurt. It was unattractive. But more than that, it didn't even include a message. It was from a relative I had helped both financially and prayerfully. I felt he hadn't expressed much gratitude for any of this.
But then I started to pray. And within a few minutes I realized that I was the one who wasn't acting right; I remembered the message of the angels, which the shepherds heard on the first Christmas: ''Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men'' (Luke 2:14). It was evident that my initial reaction to the card certainly hadn't included either peace or goodwill. And it didn't glorify God.
An old saying, ''It's not the gift but the thought that counts,'' is absolutely true; there is thought involved in all giving-and receiving. We might think this saying refers to the giver only, but the thoughts of the recipient are equally important. Allowing disappointment, hurt feelings, or contempt to take over causes suffering to the one thinking such thoughts. Now I saw that believing any of God's children can do wrong is the very opposite of what Christmas is all about.
A book, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany-written by the Founder of the Christian Science Church, Mary Baker Eddy-says, ''In Christian Science, Christmas stands for the real, the absolute and eternal,-for the things of Spirit, not of matter. . . .
''The basis of Christmas is the rock, Christ Jesus; its fruits are inspiration and spiritual understanding of joy and rejoicing,-not because of tradition, usage, or corporeal pleasures, but because of fundamental and demonstrable truth, because of the heaven within us. The basis of Christmas is love loving its enemies, returning good for evil, love that 'suffereth long, and is kind' '' (p. 260).
To recognize that God is the only creator of man and the universe is to celebrate Christmas correctly. All that God creates reflects His goodness and love. The Christ communicates the good, spiritual nature of each one of us. A clear understanding of this fact enabled Jesus to heal the sick and the sinful, and even to destroy death. Refusing to accept anything about man that is unlike God's goodness is fulfilling that song of the angels, '' . . . on earth peace, good will toward men.''
I began to examine every one of my thoughts about the situation. I perceived that, in my helping my relative, it was really God's power, which I was reflecting, that had helped him-not any personal power. I didn't really want hurt feelings, criticism, or self-righteousness to control my thinking. Such thoughts were not making me happy, and they certainly weren't contributing any joy to the world. I resolved to stop thinking such thoughts and to start thinking thoughts of peace and goodwill.
Within a few minutes I felt my joy return. I no longer felt dominated by resentment. Then I completely forgot the incident.
Not too long after this another, beautiful card, with a loving message, came from the same person. I was very grateful and saw this as evidence of God's love. But it wouldn't have mattered to me if it hadn't come, because my prayer had already proved to me in this instance that I never could lose my joy, at Christmas or any time.
Now I really cherish the first card, because it forced me to gain a little better understanding of the true meaning of Christmas. This is why it has become my favorite Christmas card.
And this shall be a sign unto you;
Ye shall find the babe
wrapped in swaddling clothes,
lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was
with the angel a multitude
of the heavenly host
praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace,
good will toward men.
Luke 2: 12-14