Christmas is the traditional gift giving season. For many the gifts given and received at Christmas are heartfelt expressions of the depth of loving relationships. There are other occasions where we commonly give gifts as well such as birthdays, weddings, baby showers, graduations, housewarmings. I suppose gifts are never out of place or inappropriate and can be given anytime one is moved to do so.
But getting back to Christmas,…while cynics see the crass commercialism of the season, and sentimentalists are drawn to the stories of Santa and the reindeer, or the manger with its shepherds and angels and wise men there is a more primitive sense that I have been drawn to year after year. This sense comes from the multiple associations of the word ‘gift’. The substantive sense of ‘gift’ is ‘that which is given’, but in order for it to be meaningful it requires both a giver of the gift and one to whom the gift is given. This little word expresses the fundamental relationship that constellates the ground of human experience (and from a theological perspective the heart of the triune nature of God as the lover, the beloved and the love that unites them.) So, at Christmas we share in this divine generosity in our own funny ways and in varying degrees of ineptness by exchanging gifts. Some find the particularity of the gospel stories equally ludicrous and preposterous (a la Charlie Hebdo or Monty Python). But I find in them true stories of One who gives the gift of himself to us all, the expression of all that love can do while honoring the freedom of the beloved. For me at least, no amount of pious sentimentality or snarky cynicism, yawning apathy or hostile opposition can obscure the beating heart at the core of Christmas. I hope that you find this gift in your life and treasure it above all else.
Randy Coleman-Riese, executive director