"I'll have a blue, blue Christmas without you…." So American music legend Elvis Presley used to croon. And Christmas isn't the only holiday that seems to get folks feeling neglected or alone. Any holiday, secular or religious, when family members usually gather, can feel lonely when loved ones are absent and missed.
But as one woman learned, that doesn't really have to be the case. One day as she placed an envelope of newspaper clippings in her mailbox to send to her daughter, she thought, "Oh, what's the use!" She felt as if she'd poured everything she had into giving this child, now a grown woman herself, a wonderful life, and yet her daughter hardly ever wrote or called, and she spent all the holidays someplace else. At one point, the daughter had even moved, changing her phone number and leaving no forwarding address, not to be heard from for several years. Although mother and daughter had mended some of their differences since, it seemed as if the mother was always the one who was reaching out.
Then, almost as if someone were asking her a question, came this response: "But was that ever the point?"
The rebuke startled her. The point? Why, the "point" of loving was just … to love. Right then, the woman began to be grateful for all the good that had come into her life – including the many happy discoveries she'd made raising this daughter, who had talents very different from her own. All the discouragement and loneliness faded away quickly. The change in her attitude was in fact so rapid that she knew that message had to have come from God, divine Love itself, who was not only her Mother and Father, but also her daughter's true Parent – and her own.
The woman remembered a phrase from a book she treasured, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy (who also founded this newspaper): "…love meeting no response, but still remaining love" (p. 586). When she looked up the phrase, she wasn't surprised to find that it was part of Mrs. Eddy's description of Gethsemane, the rocky garden where the Master of Christianity, Jesus of Nazareth, spent his last night on earth before he was unjustly executed. The entire description reads: "Patient woe; the human yielding to the divine; love meeting no response, but still remaining love."
Newly inspired, the woman thought of a beloved stand of live oaks near her rural California home. When she first drove past them after the wildfires of autumn 2007, she burst into tears. The grand old trees were charred black. They looked lifeless. Then an article in the local paper encouraged residents not to cut down any live oaks that appeared damaged, but to leave them alone until spring. The article explained that California's native live oaks had been conditioned over many centuries to withstand fire and drought.
Sure enough, the following spring, the beloved live oaks sprouted green. The new growth prospered. By the end of that summer, someone seeing the trees for the first time might not even have known they'd been through such a devastating fire. This memory of the live oaks reminded the woman of some other lines from Science and Health: "The attraction between native qualities will be perpetual only as it is pure and true, bringing sweet seasons of renewal like the returning spring" (p. 57).
We might not always see such green "payback" from the love and care we offer others. But pure, true love is its own reward. And isn't this what giving – whether at Christmas or some other season – is all about?
Every valley shall be exalted,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low:
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough places plain: Isaiah 40:4