Before you hit the malls . . .

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

My Grandmother had very little money. But her gifts at Christmas are the ones I remember the most.

She would take a box and line it with Christmas paper. Then she would put in things she had baked - little banana cakes with cream cheese icing, sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips. And small kitchen scrubbers she had made out of inexpensive netting. Each family would receive a package like this. I think of it as a box of love because it was given with great joy and caring.

What about your gift-giving this year? Your kids only want expensive junk. Your parents don't need a thing. Your sister probably will return whatever you give her anyway. And your wife - don't buy her the wrong size, or her feelings might be hurt.

If any of that sounds familiar, how about a gift everyone will love. A gift no one will return, that won't wear out or get lost, and that everyone needs. It is your gift of unconditional love. It doesn't mean you can't buy something, too. But it might just make it all more meaningful.

Do you love good? Then you love God. And it's natural that when you love God you want to love people, too. Wanting to show your love for family, friends, and charities is actually a desire to show God's love.

When gift-giving rests on this simple, unselfish basis, it will bless the receiver as well as the giver. This blessing happens as we listen for God and hear God. It's a great way to eliminate stress, hurry, confusion. People feel the love and joy that go along with the gifts that God inspires us to give. It's the caring behind the giving that lasts.

Christmas is a celebration of Jesus' birth. And Jesus was a gift-giver. He gave the gift of healing and of showing God's love for men, women, and children. He gave spiritual teaching. He gave his example. Because of these enduring gifts, the world was never the same. Striving to love others is a way of following his teaching and example. It is giving something to the world.

The Christmas season is the busiest shopping time of the year. And a good way to give peace to yourself and others is to make the effort to be patient and unrushed. To seek God's control in every area of your life. The practice of being loving, joyous, patient, and aware of "God with us" is prayer itself.

Actually, God's gifts to us, His/Her beloved children, are qualities. We can naturally express the spiritual qualities of love and joy and patience because we always have what our Father-Mother has given us.

I wrote this simple poem for myself, to remind myself to give spiritual gifts to people. It has helped me to be more loving:

May I be the quiet

in the rush,

May I do the kind deed

in secret,

May my prayers

bless another's life.

May my daily goal be -

to live a life

of Christlike love!

For me, one particular sentence, written by the founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, shows how to find a gift we can give ourselves and our families: "What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 4).

I guess we might have a long Christmas list of what we think we need. And there is nothing wrong with enjoying store-bought gifts. But sincere love is what's important. It lasts. It is one thing that we can give to others that is guaranteed to be right for them.

So here is my gift-giving list for this year: First, start by wanting to give love. Second, acknowledge that God is in control and leading me. Third, see that right in the middle of the bustle I can feel God's presence. Finally, remember that when a person's desire is to love as God does, this will always bless.

Grace and peace be multiplied

unto you through the knowledge

of God, and of Jesus our Lord,

according as his divine power

hath given unto us all things

that pertain unto life and godliness.

II Peter 1:2, 3

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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