Sunday, 18 December 2011

Of Gifts and Giving...

Gifts at Christmas – reminding us of the gift of Jesus, the gifts of the magi... tangible, actual gifts.
Gifts, giving. We think we know what that means.  Jesus talked about the value of giving in secret and giving without expecting any reward for doing so: in true giving, the giver does not expect anything in return. The dictionary gives ideas of handing over something (or someone) into someone else’s care – usually permanently.
We might not - perhaps should not – get our ‘gift’ back.
Do you think that, despite our best intentions, we can lose sight of this at Christmas?  Is there an insidious demand deep within ourselves, perhaps unnoticed until it is not met, that our giving is reciprocated so that we do in fact receive some reward. Not necessarily a physical gift, but recognition, appreciation, value, worth...?
How to give
Giving isn’t just about buying or creating actual gifts for someone.  We can give of ourselves.  We can give:
Our time – when we don’t feel we have enough of it for ourselves, let alone any to give away.
Our convenience – when it is troublesome to put ourselves out.
Our leisure – when our own plans are put to one side.
Our relaxation – when we give up our own comfort to give Jesus.
Our friendship – when it seems that others don’t reciprocate.
Giving also has the idea of yielding – we talk about ‘give and take’. Maybe we could give up our right to win arguments...?!  Maybe we could give forgiveness, especially where it is unlikely there will be reconciliation...?
Giving ourselves gifts, too: the gift of grace
Because giving also has the idea of giving in to pressure, or even collapsing, in the sense of breaking down and falling apart, sometimes we can be so busy ‘giving’ to others that we ‘give’ in this sense as well. We become tired, worn out - even, at times, broken. We work and toil and strive to fulfil our function and purpose as 'givers' that we forget to give ourselves gifts too: gifts of grace.
Giving also applies to giving permission.  We can give ourselves permission to be imperfect, to have ‘time off’ from Christmas preparations... can we also give permission to others to  speak, behave or just to BE THEMSELVES in a way free of demands and expectations this Christmas?  Just as Jesus did...
What gift of grace could you give yourself?   Grace to be imperfect. Grace of time. Grace of...?

What gift would you give Jesus? I asked this question at school, providing little gift tags for the children to write on, popping them into a bright gift bag next to the crib scene.  The ideas were all very sweet, but I liked this answer best: I would give him a great big hug!

What would YOU give him?

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