As we approach what is usually a very hectic time of the year, let us take a moment to reflect, and look forward to how we can engage the lives and relationships around us in meaningful ways in the days ahead. The stresses of finding the right gift for someone and the joy of receiving a longed-for wish can enliven us, moving us from fatigue to a sense of fulfillment. On the other hand, the head-shaking blandness of getting something as redundant as a tie... or another pair of sock... or sweater that we do not need or want, can leave us with feelings of emptiness. Just picking something for the sake of picking something to give can leave us exhausted to say the least. Every year we swear that we are not going to go crazy ‘doing this thing again". And every year, to some degree, we all do. I have told my friends, my children, my co-workers, that instead of buying me stuff that I am sure I don’t need; they should instead find someone who is in need, and give them something for me. For the most part they do not listen, and I understand. I suppose we all want to feel that we have done our duty.
This has always been, and maybe still is, a season of complex emotions. There is a genuine need to reach out and touch someone. There is a need to be touched ourselves. We want to share the love that in many cases has gone untold, or is dormant in our chests and in our stomachs, or that has sort of become sub-conscious. Our love often goes underground in our lives, waiting for a time and place to be expressed. All too often that time is usually when one of us is about to have our physical remains placed beneath the ground... Unfortunately. This then is a season when we become acutely aware of the many significant others around us, and of the impact that our presence makes in each other’s lives.
This is also a time when some become acutely aware of their loneliness. In the midst of all our merry making, the increase in the number of suicides this time of year is a critical reminder to us of how absent we are in the world of someone who really needs us. In the very midst of great abundance, there is a desperate poverty that afflicts many. The Good News we can all share is that in fact we, none of us, need to feel abandoned to the destiny of hopelessness that is implied in our existential poverty. Hope for our world comes in the form of the God in us that is Love. It is this God that became incarnate in the life of the Christ that we should be celebrating all year long. The Christ who comes to comfort the afflicted, heal the broken-hearted, set the captive free, and declare that the time is now when Love can be that light in the darkest corners of our existence.
Everything that we need is to be found in a world balanced through Justice. Love is the infinite resource of that world. The God of infinite resources comes to us in all our circumstances of need. Our needs vary. Some of us need some things. Some of us need something more. The God who is Love calls us to shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the widow and the fatherless, speak the Word of healing and wholeness to those in prison, liberate the oppressed and the oppressor… The gifts of the God who is Love are tailored to our individual needs. Love gives His/Her gifts indiscriminately to us in accordance with the circumstances of our poverty.
So as we make a big deal of our efforts in what has essentially become an orgy of commercialism, let us not forget the reason for the season. The caroling will go away. We will take down the lights. And if we are not clear about that reason, we return to the ‘being absent’ in each other’s lives that really is our standard. In the end it is not the things that we purchase with money that matter most, but our continued loving/caring presence in each other’s lives. It is how we continue be with one another down the various roads of life. It is the crucial matter of how we continue to do right by each other when no bells are ringing.
Let us rediscover the spirit of generosity this season. Let's not restrict that generosity to those we know, and to whom we are somehow related. Let us reach out and touch someone who is in need... Anyone. And let us remember that the greatest gift we can give in this Season of Giving ... is the gift of a Love that endures.