Easter is such a natural religious event for Christians to cherish. They revere the crucifixion and Jesus’ incredibly joyous resurrection and ascension. But have you ever thought of Easter as a time of gift-giving? The Christmas season has become widely practiced as a time of giving gifts just as the wise men brought gifts in recognition of Jesus’ birth (see Matthew, chap. 2). But Easter has its own significance when it comes to giving gifts.
I’ve come to see Easter in the light of these words: “Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men” (Ephesians 4:7, 8). It echoes a statement in the Old Testament: “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men” (Psalms 68:18). Interestingly, the Psalmist uses the phrase, “received gifts” instead of the New Testament’s words, “gave gifts.” I like to think of these terms as receiving gifts from God and giving through an expression of God. Jesus received from God, and he gave to us.
Here are three gifts to us that came from Jesus’ expression of God – gifts that can revolutionize daily life. The gift of forgiveness as Jesus forgave his enemies at the crucifixion. The gift of immortality demonstrated by his overcoming death at the resurrection. And the gift of complete victory over material limitations shown in Jesus’ ascension. These particular gifts impel a specific spiritual awakening that is still in the beginning stages of dawning. This dawning is the result of Jesus’ life, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension – and the result of how he understood God.
Christian Science draws from the Bible words that define the very essence of God’s nature. Three of them are Love, Life, and Spirit. Christ Jesus reflected, that is, he expressed, God more than any individual ever has. Ponder for a moment the immense good in store for our world as it more fully discovers that Jesus’ expression of divine Love proved hate can be conquered; and consider his manifestation of Life and how it overcame death; and imagine the significance of his representation of Spirit in rising above the limits of matter. These are gifts that hint at an empowerment of humanity – an empowerment with the profound implications of destroying hate, death, and all material limitations. Our present demonstration of these three gifts may be modest, but it points us in life-changing directions.
Jesus understood and expressed God as not only a loving God, but as ever-present Love itself. Universal Love. Omnipotent Love. He showed us that the dawning recognition of this Love is a Christ-impelled dawning. It is God’s message of unity and our oneness with Him. As we catch an inspired glimpse of the love Jesus lived, we, too, can feel empowered with this Christ-love. It enables us to feel a Christly forgiveness that reaches into and blesses the hearts of others who may have done us wrong.
The understanding that God is infinite and perfect Life, and that we are Life’s image and likeness (see Genesis 1:26, 27), raises up what seemed destined to die. When Jesus completely overcame death, his profound example gave us the gift of understanding to prove, however humbly, that Life is eternal. Even a resurrection of a friendship, a project, or a job we had hoped for shows some indication of this. As an understanding of Life has dawned on my consciousness, I’ve seen even sickness and disease disappear instantly – surely a priceless gift.
Furthering our progress in healing involves challenging a view that matter is substance. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, says in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter” (p. 468). I’ve seen for myself throughout my life that a genuine understanding of God as infinite Spirit lifts us out of the suffering inherent in matter.
Yes, the forgiveness that heals, the resurrection from what seemed destined to die, the growing freedom from materialism, are authentic presents. These gifts Christ Jesus revealed are here to change the world. The lessons his expression of God taught may dawn in consciousness only gradually. But as they do, we’ll echo with deep gratitude these Bible words on Easter, and every other day: “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (II Corinthians 9:15).