December 7, 2014
Two wonderful long-time friends arrived for an overnight visit. In their brief time here they bettered even their own previous record of getting things done. The storm door is repaired, the Christmas tree is assembled and decorated, and the big wreath safely hanging over the mantle. Additionally we celebrated the successful close of a busy day by sharing a dinner with other local friends, then staying up later than was wise.
As a matter of public record these get-it-done genius-type people are this morning already on their way back to their home in another state, minds and energy focused on the demands of their ministry and their make-a-living-type jobs. [Actually, I suspect that each of these remarkable people have second secret jobs, one as Director of Santa’s Workshop, and the other as Supervisor of Working Elves.]
The Christmas tree is beautiful. The mantle is draped with garland and sparkles with tiny white lights. The nativity scene is arranged on the hall entrance table, and the advent candles ready for lighting. There is a large wreath with lovely red berries hanging on the wall of the front porch and an exuberant poinsettia on the kitchen table. Holiday placemats and napkins are freshly laundered and in the linen drawer. I can honestly say “Greetings from my house to yours as we enter into the celebration of God’s coming to us.” This is unusual. My heart and mind are almost always considerably ahead of my house in preparation for Advent.
But I want to say a word about friendship. I have known these busy people for nearly twenty years. Their gift to me (and to others) does not lie simply in what they do and what they are able to get accomplished, although all of us who know them profit from their functional genius.
But it is their additional gift of focused, common-sense attention to people’s needs in the terms that the person who is receiving the gift defines their needs. This couple is extraordinary in their attention to this aspect of the act of giving.
In the busy scheme of their lives—children, grandchildren, church, two jobs, and the seasonal tsunami of community activities—I am sure that Christmas decorations as such did not have a particularly high priority on their list of important things.
However—God bless them—they know and remember my love for Christmas lights and symbols. Remembering, they took the time and the effort to “give” me a house warm with holiday lights and icons, simply because these things mattered to me, not because these things mattered as such to them.
As I sit this late afternoon in the glow of the Christmas tree lights, I recall the focus of the angels’ announcement to the shepherds that wonderful night: good tidings to you—to you a child has been born—and you will find him lying in a manger.
The angels’ understood (who better) the magnanimity of God’s gift, but the emphasis was not on the justifiable “Look at this spectacular thing God has done.” Rather their attention was drawn to the gift to them: “Look—and marvel—at the gift you have been given.”
Whatever gifts I may give this year, I am asking the Spirit to enable me to keep the act of gift-giving clearly centered on the person receiving the gift.
I would like to think that perhaps God can announce again this Advent through my giving—“Look! Here is a gift—a gift for you.”
See you next week.