Christmas gifts that last
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
There's a song about Christmas and "my two front teeth," which we won't repeat here. But it's deeply satisfying to consider a Christmas list of enduring, worthwhile gifts that would fit into any size stocking. Here are several that are at the top of my list:
Joy. I would like to recapture some of the exhilaration of the gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus, especially the wonder felt by the shepherds at the angel's "good tidings of great joy." Such gladness would not be confined to any group or time period but enrich the lives of all people. That joy, springing from the changeless unity of God and His children, has proved timeless, and remains central to the lives of millions of believers throughout the world today. Think also of the indescribable joy experienced by the wise men when they caught their first glimpse of the star in the skies over Bethlehem.
Light. Mary Baker Eddy, the woman who founded this newspaper, wrote of that star: "The star that looked lovingly down on the manger of our Lord, lends its resplendent light to this hour: the light of Truth, to cheer, guide, and bless man as he reaches forth for the infant idea of divine perfection dawning upon human imperfection, - that calms man's fears, bears his burdens, beckons him on to Truth and Love and the sweet immunity these bring from sin, sickness, and death" ("Miscellaneous Writings," Pg. 320). I'd be delighted to find that light in my stocking!
Wisdom. In the second chapter of Luke we read, "And the child [Jesus] grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom." He wasn't just smart for his age; he was filled with wisdom. Just think how much hassle we could avoid if we approached every difficulty with the God-endowed wisdom that Jesus assured us was just as much ours as his. Imagine going through the year ahead enriched by the breadth of God's understanding, the depth of His insight, and the heights attainable through His inspiration. Divine wisdom does this for us. "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom," we are assured in Proverbs, "and the man that getteth understanding.... Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace" (3:13, 17).
Peace. Wouldn't it be great to find peace on every pathway, with a two-way exchange of friendliness, respect, encouragement? This is the "peace upon earth among men of goodwill" of which Luke spoke (2:14; J. B. Phillips, "The New Testament in Modern English"). And isn't this peace an expression of God's wisdom, which understands there is only one good will, God's will, governing people and nations?
Grace. Along with wisdom and peace, Jesus found that "the grace of God was upon him." Grace is one of those qualities that seem to defy easy definition. This divine influence flows ceaselessly to us from God, even if unsought or apparently undeserved. But note that in the Gospels it is assumed that recipients of God's grace will perform deeds of grace, as Jesus did - which suggests we might add to our Christmas list a notebook in which to record our good works!
Love. Everyone would probably like to have stockings overflowing with love - a quality that Jesus helped us to identify, cherish, and exemplify. This, after all, is the essence of Christmas. The Apostle Paul described the love given to us by God as "slow to lose patience" and one that "looks for a way of being constructive." He said it is "not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance." It is a love that "knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything" (see Phillips, I Cor. 13:1-13). This is the kind of love I'd like to receive every day. The kind that, when truly made our own, we simply cannot resist sharing with others.
Yet, perhaps the best gift of all is the realization that as God's sons and daughters, made in His likeness, we are already beneficiaries of "all things that pertain unto life and godliness" (II Pet. 1:3).
We might even abandon our lists. Our stockings are already full!