Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Gift

At my most cynical, it's the shopping that saps me. I don't mind browsing, but choosing is agonising, and any time spent at the shops in December is uncomfortable. I care too much about buying the present that will delight.

We all sit around the pile of presents that dwarfs the tree. We've eaten chicken and ham and all the healthy vegetables, drowned in gravy. Now for the presents. The wrapping is torn off quickly and the excitement never quite satisfies. Are gifts a reminder that nothing in this world will ever fill our gaping hearts?

In the midst of Christmas spirit, giving is fun and the presents a ritual that brings us together. Advent is like a parade passing two warring factions in the middle of town. The howls of commercialism and my recriminations wave streamers on my left. The delight of enjoying good things and blessings from our maker shout from my right. There's no easy straw man here because we live in a world of things and expectations and people whose bread is bought by Christmas dollars. Take care with judging, I tell myself. My sister-in-law says I look tired, so I nod. I'm not sure if I am physically tired, but this moral mire drains me. Is this why Christmas fills me with both excitement and dread?

Family and giving and having my cooking on show lays me bare. I see my dependence on praise from others, my fear of disappointing, my pride. The gift I need is grace.

My daughter painted me a picture and my son found me a colourful tin at the op shop. No other gifts can compare in value, and I boast gently in them. Truly, I am blessed.

We cling to these Christmas rituals, don't we? Impressing each other with our hospitality or our generosity. Getting Christmas done earliest, being ready for it. I do it every year. And then I remember that we're celebrating a late arrival baby in a messy stable. How could we ever really be prepared?
It's such a time for love and acceptance. That it's OK when my roast potatoes are a bit cold and soggy. Or just plain underdone. That I didn't actually get you your favourite present, but you're glad to spend the afternoon with me. That your being unprepared or flustered or just tired is fine with me.
What about this gift? The capacity to sit amongst this mix of delight and expectation, impatience and weariness, with grace and patience. To let it be, without wishing it were something else, because God is here. 

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