Earlier this month, advertisements encouraged us to buy and celebrate, and now they tout products and services to help us hit the ground running and get back to business; take care of our diet, our bodies, our future. Christmas is a time for warmth and family, sharing and giving. But now, as the radio announcer said at the end of the King’s College Chapel Festival of Carols, “It’s time to step back into the real world.”
The impulse to jump back into life and get on track to realize our fondest goals is a good one. But my first thought on hearing that announcer’s words was that I did not want to be in a great hurry to leave the Christmas sense of light and love expressed by the choir. I want to move forward, but I want to keep the heart of Christmas with me.
It’s fitting that after Christmas we should notice what things in our lives are not in sync with our higher sense of good, and we should want to start fresh and get it right. But the kind of change that we yearn for demands more than a change in diet or merely making resolutions for self-improvement.
The well-meaning resolutions that typically fizzle out by the end of January (and I’ve made my share!) don’t fail because they are impractical or beyond our abilities. My sense of it is that they get left behind because often our attempts at improvement put the cart before the horse; they begin with willpower that caves in when the going gets tough, or with secondhand motivation that can’t consistently impel us in a genuine, heartfelt way.
Yet wanting things to get better, wanting to better ourselves, is one of the best of human impulses. We just need to start from the right basis.
According to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke in the Bible, a man who wanted the secret to everlasting good approached Jesus with his question and got an unexpected answer. “The Message” interprets Jesus’ response in this way: “Why do you question me about what’s good? God is the One who is good. If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you” (Matthew 19:17).
The instructions make me ask, “Just what is it that God is telling us?” And the answer is not obscure or hard to find. God’s kingdom is, as Jesus also said, “within.” God’s law is written in our hearts. Pausing to consider the spiritual qualities we actually value most, we find that good isn’t something we create, but a divine reality that we can respond to.
There have been a number of reports recently on studies of the power of gratitude and generosity on human relationships and on health. On the one hand, it’s hardly a news flash that those who are consistently conscious of good and are grateful for it are more content and less stressed. Or that generosity is a good thing. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a teaching that has been around for a long time. But having our intuitions about good quantified by data does remind us that these things are not true because someone preaches that they are, or because we would like them to be so in an ideal world: They are true because they are provable and repeatable.
Christian Science teaches the consistent presence of divine good, God, and the supremacy and omnipotence of spiritual truth. After her discovery of the Science of Jesus’ teachings, Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “If thought is startled at the strong claim of Science for the supremacy of God, or Truth, and doubts the supremacy of good, ought we not, contrariwise, to be astounded at the vigorous claims of evil and doubt them, and no longer think it natural to love sin and unnatural to forsake it, – no longer imagine evil to be ever-present and good absent?” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 130).
Living from inspiration, living with freshness, living with the awareness that Love is what is most real, is more than a desirable ideal; it is what is natural for us. Goodness is the true north of the human compass because goodness really is written in our hearts. The next step is to live it.