Good morning! Are you ready to take on Monday? For you teachers out there…you can do this week! Good luck!
Today’s scripture: James 1:17-25 (NRSV)
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.
Part of the Advent countdown growing up in our house was to see what gifts would start to appear under the tree. It wouldn’t begin until mid way through Advent but there they would start collecting. My brothers and I would wake up each morning and run down the stairs to see if more gifts accumulated. Did the gifts have our names on it? What was the size? We would make sure that we each had another one and we would compare with each others gifts. Then we went to open the Advent calendar before getting ready for the day. It was so exciting! When it got closer to Christmas Eve we would wrap our additions to add to the tree. Gift giving has been a key part of the holidays in our family.
I have one more gift to buy for the family. It is for one person and it is really nagging at me. I want to find the perfect object to give her. I enjoy thinking of each person and what might bring them a glimpse of joy on Christmas morning as they open it. I want to let them know that I thought of just them when I picked it out.
But gift giving is also pretty stressful and can be overwhelming. Is your gift list growing? Are you an early shopper? Or does it give you stomachaches as you think about it? Are you trying to budget?
And the reality is….all of a sudden I am thinking about objects that I don’t really need. I am not really a stuff kind of girl. I usually preach about how we need to simplify our things and not get too involved in the consumeristic culture before us. Plus I am horrible about buying objects for friends and extended family on command (sorry dear ones). I would much rather schedule experiences and time with you all. That is so deeply meaningful for me. I strive to be generous in daily living rather than just once a year….so what do we do with all of this? We live in the world and we celebrate with the world and there is some major joy in giving another a gift. How do we find balance?
I only bring this up because yesterday I was scrolling through facebook and my anxiety shot up as people were talking about how they had finished their shopping and giving each other gifts. I thought to myself, “do I need to buy more? What about that one person?” I hate to admit it I also felt a little competitive with other clergy who were receiving mucho gifts and so were their staffs….how do we appreciate our people? When really in the back of my mind I was thinking….I don’t need that stuff. People can appreciate without giving gifts….I have bought plenty….and I love having the conversation with friends about experiences.
James tells us that perfect gifts come from God. They are inspired and full of grace. They are thoughtful and generous. Because God gives us these gifts, we can also be generous in our giving. We are doers not just mere hearers of the word. So when we hear the word of generosity, perhaps we can leap into action. What if we gave gifts to our loved ones but also grabbed an extra giving tree tag? What if we were generous with our time? What if we consistently made sure that we checked in about balance, what we can afford, and where our priorities were this season. Sure, Jesus received gifts when he appears but most of all, he receives human interaction and time.
Finally I was inspired by this video about gifts….Kid President makes me giggle. But he also helps us focus on the right kind of gift….enjoy….