It is that time of year when folks start looking for ways to gift one another ... sometimes just to gift the self. I used to find this part of the season lots of fun, for I somewhat enjoyed the challenge of searching for that perfect gift that would both fit the person and let them know how deeply I cared for them. Doing this for my parents was a real challenge, after all what could they possibly appreciate that they could not easily have gotten themselves. That required paying very close attention to these people that I "knew" so well. Familiarity sometimes blinds one to the mystery of the other as person. The same was also true of my siblings, although often they gave away hints in the early parts of Advent concerning their hopes for "Santa."
Well, it has been several years since my parents departure from this life and my siblings' needs for the future are in many ways beyond my ability to respond. The recent deaths of family members puts a pall over the season and leaves an emptiness that cannot be filled with tinsel and colorful packaging. It is at times like this that it becomes apparent that narrowly focused attention on presents, both given and received, cannot be all there is to it.
Why do we struggle to buy gifts for one another on Christmas?? Is it because of custom, after all I have no memory of ever doing anything else at this time of year? Is it simply because of the great deals one can find this time of year? Is it a one-upmanship, trying to show how great we are for the people who touch our lives?? No, I am quite sure that for the most part it is an effort to let one another know of the love we have and hope to nourish. Love is at the center.
It is not by accident that the season of sharing is intimately tied to the greatest gift of love we have ever received: the gift of God's only Son taking on our mortal flesh and being born as a man among us. It is not by accident that the whole period before the celebration of His birth is called Advent, for it takes a lot of preparation to accept the wonder of God's love in the birth of our Savior. We await His coming in the flesh and we await his coming in glory.
The first happened in history and is sometimes not grasped in all its fundamental human loving, earth transforming fullness. With the advent of Jesus the Love of God was made so intimately personal, touching the very core of human experience. It is in and through the Incarnation that the profound desire of God for our good is revealed and made manifest to a world that was so very wounded and darkened by sin in all its selfish and destructive manifestations. We still need to embrace that gift today as our world drifts farther away from the true meaning of the season.
The Second Advent will happen at the end of time. It is then that we will become overwhelmingly aware of God's love and either fully embrace it forever because we have been preparing for it all our lives or hide from it and refuse to embrace it because it is so foreign to those who have abandoned the good in their lives for so long that they see it as oppressive and foreign.
I hope and pray that those who read this will make of this season a time to renew their relationship with God and the good he has bestowed on us in Christ Jesus, that they might choose to live that love in their relationship with others. May this Advent bring forth an abundance of grace and peace for a world that is so very much in need of the Good News in Jesus Christ.