There is a deluge of mail that arrives in mid-November. Each bright catalogue declaring to have the perfect gifts for the season. Models in fuzzy sweaters carrying newly cut pine trees frame the words, “something for everyone on your list.” I’ll glance through these and doubt if my 9-year-old nephew really wants a fair isle sweater, but I still pause wondering if my list is long enough and if the gifts will indeed be “right.” This year the catalogues arrived again, and I was back to worrying about lists and gifts and wondering if this would be the year, I finally get a Christmas Card sent before Lent. As I was worrying about Christmas, my hands were busy prepping craft material for the upcoming Live Nativity.
Wooden cut outs representing hope, peace, joy and love were laid out of my kitchen counter. The shapes are simple: star, a dove, an angel, and a heart. The wood is rough and unadorned. These will not be the most exciting gifts children receive this Advent season. Despite the number of sequins, gold paint, and glitter glue, they will not be the most elaborate. They are simply reminders of far greater gifts. Gifts that don’t translate well into glossy print.
During Advent, each week we focus on one of the gifts God has extended: hope, peace, joy, and love. These are the gifts that help us prepare for the Christ Child. Gifts that transform us and gifts that sustain us. Gifts that do not have to wait on wrapping paper or even overnight delivery. Gifts that God freely offers. I struggle sometimes, because it would be much easier if God sent a catalogue with a list of options and a website to place an order. I can imagine checking off how many units of hope I needed this year and sending a gift card along with a gross of peace. I would be sure to "add love" to the order and probably a few sides of joy just in case. Just think, we could track the shipment and know exactly when they arrived. We could store them away just in case we realized we forgot a gift. And we we needed one, we could dust the gift we needed love, joy, peace or hope it wouldn't matter, they would be waiting in the back of the closet.
But God’s gifts don’t work that way. When we teach the youngest members of our church about God’s gifts we use language like this: This is a gift that has already been given to us. We can’t buy them, or take them, or steal them. They are already ours. Once they have been given, no one can buy them, or take them or steal them from you. They are ours; God has given them. You can share them and when you do the gift only gets bigger.
As we prepare for Advent, I invite you to enjoy the gifts God offers. I invite you to be surprised at the way they are delivered and impressed with the ways you can give them away.
In case you need a reminder of these gifts, come to this year’s Live Nativity and Evening Worship Service. The Live Nativity begins at 4:00 on the front lawn. In addition to crafts, live animals, and delicious hot chocolate, we will have time together to celebrate God’s love shared with each of us. At 5:00 in the sanctuary, we will rest in God’s peace and celebrate all that we have received.