I begin this article with a word of profound thanks to Almighty God for the healing I have been experiencing since my surgery in June. My family and I are most grateful to all of you who offered prayerful, loving and moral support to us.
In a pastoral letter to the clergy and people of York-Simcoe, I wrote that my recent illness was a life-altering experience for me. When we face such challenges in our lives, we tend to view life in a very different light than before. I am learning to pay very close attention to the signs and signals that I receive from my body. I encourage others to do the same. Paul reminds us that our bodies are “temples of the Lord.”
Sometimes we receive gifts from family, friends, neighbours and even strangers. Those gifts may vary in quantity and quality, but they are given, in most cases, with a degree of care and generosity. It is important how we receive such gifts, which often are given selflessly and with a genuine desire to be thoughtful and kind. We are reminded of the “widow’s mite” in the gospel story, in which she gave of her all, and although a small gift, it was sacrificial and out of the little that she had. The giving of everything, the sacrifice made, is probably of more value than the giving of much out of abundance. We may thank the giver by words, cards, emails, letters or a telephone call. It really is just as important what we do with the gift, the value we attach to it and the appreciation we have for the generosity of the giver.
At this time in our Christian liturgical calendar, we celebrate the greatest of all gifts: the gift of salvation in the person of Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3: 16). This gift of salvation comes to all of us out of unconditional love, not for a few, but for the world, for all who would receive it. In John’s gospel we also read, “but to all who received him, he gave power to become the children of God… born of the will of God” (John 1: 12 ff).
God’s will is that we receive the gift of salvation in the person of Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life. In receiving Christ and following in His Way, His Truth and His Life, we are given power to love unconditionally as he loves, to forgive as he forgives, and to be compassionate as he is compassionate.
We may claim and own this wonderful gift of salvation in the name of Jesus Christ by living that salvation daily in our lives, work and witness, daily loving others for their sake, going the extra mile to make something work, and by being Christ-like.
God has come among us in order that we might have life in all its fullness. He chose to come among us, our Emmanuel, to share in our humanity. God has come among us in Christ, in order to reconcile the world to himself. God has come among us in Christ, in order that we may become reconciled to each other. Christ dwells among us to share in our joys and our sorrows, our ups and downs in life, and that we may know that we are all loved by God.
Every day is a God-given opportunity to be reconciled with God and each other. It is an opportunity to tell loved ones, friends, co-workers and the many with whom we share our lives, that they are loved, appreciated and valued by us. Let us not regret missing the chance to share with those whom God has placed in our lives, our heartfelt thanks and gratitude for all they are and have shared, and all that they mean to us.
My hope this Christmas season is that we would be intentional in expressing thanks to Almighty God for life and the gift of salvation in his Son Jesus Christ. I also hope that we would show and express gratitude to those whom we can so easily take for granted: family, friend, co-worker, neighbour and the person who may never be able to give us anything in return.
While tributes to loved ones and friends at retirement functions and funerals are fitting and appropriate, let us not lose the opportunity to tell them while they are with us, how much they are loved and cherished.
In this season of love, peace, joy, hope and goodwill, as we gather to celebrate the birth of Christ in our churches, at meals with family, friends and others, may we be reminded that we are called to love God and neighbour, as we love ourselves.
A blessed and happy Christmas to you and all with whom you share your lives.