Scripture: Do not be deceived my dear brothers! Every good gift and every present comes from heaven; it comes from God….” (James 1:17)
Meditation: For much of my life I have not been very good at accepting gifts. I guess I could blame it on an upbringing that etched on my brain the old adage, “‘Tis better to give than receive.”
I suppose that this saying is a useful tool for providing a perspective for children overwhelmed by the desire to receive, but as guidance for building relationships it is not very helpful.
I have no specific memory of who helped me understand the subtle message of a reluctance to receive, but the value of that lesson has come home to me on many occasions as homeless friends, children, and others have sought to say “thank you” or “happy holidays,” or “I love you” with a simple gift. I have come to understand my acceptance of that gift is an acknowledgment of their humanity, that we are equals in the eyes of God, and that I have a need that they can fill. I now believe that accepting a gift can be as much of an act of love as giving one.
On Christmas Day in 1986 an op ed piece entitled, “Gifts from the Homeless “appeared in the New York Times. Written by author Jonathan Kozol, the short piece reminded us of the gifts we receive daily even from those who live on our city streets.
A homeless father of two children whom I met the other day in San Antonio told me that he sells blood twice a week to buy the food to feed his sons. They sleep with him at night along a railroad track… Those of us who can afford to go to hospitals when we are sick should give thanks to those who offer us their blood – perhaps the one thing we might have supposed that they could call their own.
A woman who sleeps beneath the asphalt roadway of the Burnside Bridge in Portland, Oregon, donates her body for medical experimentation at a local hospital and earns thereby enough to buy the heavy padded clothes she needs to make it through the winter. Let us thank her for the health she gives us.
An important lesson on the journey to Christmas is that each one of us is created in the image of God and that our relationships to one another, to be honest and healthy, must recognize the contributions we all make.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for all the gifts we receive this season. Help us to understand that receiving can be an important and loving act as we build relationships with those whom we encounter each and every day. Amen.
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