November 29

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in Him with all speech and all knowledge-- even as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you-- so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ; who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
--1 Corinthians 1:3-9 (RSV)

This time of year we think much of gifts and giving, but we tend to focus on material rather than spiritual gifts, including memories of gifts given and received from the past.

There were many special dolls and wonderful books that came to me as Christmas gifts. Yet the Christmas memories that are most compelling are those of love and acceptance, both given and received.

I was about five years old the Christmas Eve that a friend of my parents unexpectedly appeared on our doorstep. He and his wife had recently separated. His four year old daughter was with him for Christmas. He was confused, lost, and bewildered. He didn’t know where to go or what to do with his little girl.

There were three of us in the family then -- it was before my youngest brother was born. Although my parents had their hands full with 3 kids under the age of 6 hyped up for Christmas, they welcomed these two wanderers and enfolded them into the family.

My father told me many years later how shocked he had been to find that his friend had made no preparations for Christmas Day. Dad didn’t want his friend’s daughter to watch the rest of us opening our gifts the next morning and have nothing to open herself, so he took his friend to the drugstore, the only place open on Christmas Eve night, to get a few presents for the little girl. This was before the time when stores remained opened late on Christmas Eve for last-minute shoppers.

On another Christmas afternoon many years later, I was reading – probably a book I had received that morning. The house was relatively quiet after the family breakfast and present opening around the tree. Suddenly I heard a woman crying and pounding on our front door. Dad opened the door to a friend who had recently been through a divorce. She and her ex-husband were both alcoholics. She had had too much Christmas “cheer” and now was wallowing in drunken melancholy and regret. All the rest of us scattered. My mother stayed upstairs and didn’t come down. We didn’t know how to react to this woman whose grief was out of control.

My father, however, greeted her as if she were a much-anticipated guest. He did his best to cheer her up in his own inimitable style. He finally succeeded when he went to his organ (he was an amateur musician) and played loud and fast, getting her to sing Christmas carols with him. By the time she left she was smiling.

“The grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him with all speech and knowledge…so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift” wrote Paul to the letter to the Corinthians.

We tend to think of spiritual gifts as the skills of the “church professional:” teaching, preaching, interpretation, prophecy and healing. We forget that often the everyday acts of kindness, charity, and compassion are also spiritual gifts. The gift of hospitality demonstrated by my father in these two situations (and in many others as well) was “revealing of Christ” to his friends and to me.

Thank you, God, for the spiritual gifts You have given us that enrich our lives and testify to the greatest gift of all, Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, whose birth we anticipate during this season of Advent. Amen.

--Quotidian Grace


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