There is no denying that receiving gifts is fun. Sugar plums and candy canes aren’t my thing, but visions of gadgets and games are pretty enticing. Your mileage may vary. I remember as a child being hardly able to fall asleep on the night before Christmas, wondering what gifts were waiting under the tree to be opened in a frenzy with the dawn’s early light. As an adult, I admit I still try to leverage Gabrielle’s family tradition of opening a gift on Christmas Eve. Waiting is difficult business; that is, after all, the whole reason we celebrate the season of Advent leading up to Christmas.
And yet, most of us have also come to learn that the old cliché is in fact true: it is more fun to give than receive. We could at this point talk about all of the ways we can get derailed in our giving: spending what we don’t have on temporary things, giving creatively, etc…. but all of that being true, I’d like to challenge us in a different direction this year.
This is a time of year when we often give generously to different causes, and there is a place for that because the needs are real. Yet I would like us to think about what happens when our giving is one-directional, when we give without placing ourselves in a position to receive gifts as well. I have a friend who recently spoke about the difference between pity and compassion. Pity gives at a distance; it gives from “on high”, looks down on the recipient of the gift (even if given with good intentions). Compassion takes the time to be with the other, it gives and receives, it looks across to another human being made in the image of God.
Is this not what we find in the incarnation? God in Jesus meeting us where we are, and inviting us to share in what God is doing. What would happen if instead of just putting money in the kettle, we stopped by the warming shelter to sit and listen to the people who come in from the cold. What if, instead of just giving money to a food pantry, we shared a meal together? It isn’t always about poverty; it’s about creating community.
Just some thoughts as we enter a season of waiting.
Blessings on the Journey,