Give the gift of forgiveness

Elodie's cow-4
Child and cow photo by Elodie Reed

Our colleague from Illinois, Thomas Mitchinson, recently published this Christmas message on his blog:

As we decide what to give to others for Christmas this year, why not consider the gift of forgiveness? Many of us have family, friends, colleagues who have hurt us, if not this year, then in years past. Isn’t it time to forgive and forget? What benefits might it offer to others and to ourselves?

Christian healer Mary Baker Eddy once wrote, “I would enjoy taking by the hand all who love me not, and saying to them, ‘I love you, and would not knowingly harm you.’ Because I thus feel, I say to others: Hate no one; for hatred is a plague-spot that spreads its virus and kills at last…If you have been badly wronged, forgive and forget.”  (Miscellaneous Writings, page 10)

Years after having written this, she had to forgive family members and former students who conspired to take away her right to make her own monetary decisions. When the case fell apart, she wrote to them words of kindness and forgiveness.

The health benefits of forgiveness are obvious. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. By embracing forgiveness, you can also embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy. Consider how forgiveness can lead you down the path of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.”

They added, “Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.”

Isn’t “peace on earth” one of the goals of this time of year (and throughout the year) whether we come from a religious background or not?

There have been times when the people I am closest to have hurt me badly. The anger and resentment has sometimes built up so much that it is hard to sleep or even think clearly. But the emphasis on forgiveness given by Jesus especially in his words from the cross, “Father, forgive them….” has been a beacon of light to enable me to forgive what others have done to me, and feel and rest better.

Even when we have hurt others, we can forgive ourselves and offer to make amends. Let’s bring more peace and health on earth, by giving the gift of forgiveness this holiday season.

© 2014 Christian Science Committee on Publication for Illinois

Christmas health and healing

Christmas Glow Images
© Glow Images

I’m praying for Christmas health and healing. Christmas is a time when people think about giving, and health is surely one of the greatest gifts that anyone could ever receive. The Bible teaches that health is natural to man, who is made “in the image of God.” (Genesis 1:27) Health is God’s gift to all of us.

Christ is what gives health and healing. Christ is not a person, but God’s incorporeal idea that constantly comes to human thought to heal. Christ inspires and regenerates life with peace and wholeness, and that is a gift that is available to us any hour of the day and any day of the year.

New Hampshire native Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science in 1866, sought on several occasions to convey the real meaning of Christmas. At one of these times, she wrote: “Christmas respects the Christ too much to submerge itself in merely temporary means and ends. It represents the eternal informing Soul recognized only in harmony, in the beauty and bounty of Life everlasting, — in the truth that is Life, the Life that heals and saves mankind. An eternal Christmas would make matter an alien save as phenomenon, and matter would reverentially withdraw itself before Mind. . . The true spirit of Christmas elevates medicine to Mind; it casts out evils, heals the sick, raises the dormant faculties, appeals to all conditions, and supplies every need of man. It leaves hygiene, medicine, ethics, and religion to God and His Christ, to that which is the Way, in word and in deed, — the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany, p. 259-260)

Health would be the gift at Christmas time, as on every other occasion, if “matter would reverentially withdraw itself before Mind.” The more we turn away from the belief of living in a material world and seek to understand God as Spirit and to cultivate spirituality in ourselves, the more we are freed to invite this gift into our own lives and the lives of others.

Mrs. Eddy understood something that can help us today: We must not get so deeply drawn into excess human activity during the holiday season that we close the door on spirituality. People commonly in our day speak of “the commercialization of Christmas” that seems to dominate during the holiday. Mrs. Eddy was well aware of this tendency toward materiality; what St. Paul called “the carnal mind,” which he said was “enmity against God.” (Romans 8:7) Mrs. Eddy sought, by her example, to draw all of us to the contemplation of spirituality at this season.

She makes this point: “Christmas to me is the reminder of God’s great gift, — His spiritual idea, man and the universe, — a gift which so transcends mortal, material, sensual giving that the merriment, mad ambition, rivalry, and ritual of our common Christmas seem a human mockery in mimicry of the real worship in commemoration of Christ’s coming.

“I love to observe Christmas in quietude, humility, benevolence, charity, letting good will towards man, eloquent silence, prayer, and praise express my conception of Truth’s appearing.” (Miscellany, p. 262)

How would silent turning to God for health be practical, at Christmas time or at any time of the year?

Here’s one example: Some years ago a Christian Science nurse attended the birth of a baby. A licensed mid-wife was scheduled to deliver the infant, but the baby came before the midwife arrived. So the Christian Science nurse guided the father in delivering the baby. When the infant was born, she was having difficulty breathing. The Christian Science practitioner attending the case was called to pray about this situation. The father relayed the practitioner’s prayers to mother and nurse, while the mother was active in declaring aloud God’s presence and power to heal right at that moment. The Christian Science nurse, who was also praying, was led to turn the new-born over on her stomach, patting her gently. Immediately the baby started to breathe with less effort. Soon the midwife, who was not a Christian Scientist, arrived and asked how the Christian Science nurse knew what to do. The midwife declared that her course of action saved the baby.

In an article entitled “The Cry of Christmas-tide,” Mrs. Eddy writes: “In different ages the divine idea assumes different forms, according to humanity’s needs. In this age it assumes, more intelligently than ever before, the form of Christian healing. This is the babe we are to cherish. This is the babe that twines its loving arms about the neck of omnipotence, and calls forth infinite care from His loving heart.” (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 370)

With every Christian healing that we experience, we find ourselves joining the angelic chorus in proclaiming: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!” (Luke 2:14)

© 2011 Christian Science Committee on Publication for New Hampshire