We are in the third week of Advent and winter weather has come to Chicago. Snow and cold don't slow us down, things keep going and there is the frantic preparations and gift buying for Christmas celebrations. This season perhaps demonstrates for us most starkly the ways in which we are a post-Christian culture. A Christian celebration that also borrowed from pre-Christian European and Mediterranean celebrations around the Winter Solstice, has morphed into at its best a hopeful celebration of family love and hope, attached to gift giving.
As Christians, we can at times find it difficult to connect with the original meanings of our Christian traditions when they are now put to different purposes and meanings. We can bemoan and attempt to challenge these changes or can accept them as fact and simply note the connections and disjunctions between the Christian celebration of Christmas and their cultural American appropriations and adaptations. Keeping the season of Advent is a way to do this. At the time when our culture is in the "holiday" season we are asked by the church year to slow down wait anticipate the coming holiday season of Christmas and the Epiphany. Another way to do this is to understand the meaning of gift giving associated with Christmas. As a Christian tradition gift giving is to be an expression of gratitude over what God gave us through the Son becoming human in Jesus of Nazareth. The gift of God's self was given to us and the whole cosmos. This of course challenges the way in which gifts are exchanged especially if they are only given to those we know and like; God's giving of God's self to that which was and is estranged from God asks us to be more expansive in our giving. If gift giving is an expression of gratitude and imitation at a time that we celebrate God's gift, our giving of gifts perhaps needs to move beyond familial and cultural expectations of who is a recipient of this act. But also we are reminded that while this particular ritual of gift giving marks a particular feast of the church year the posture of self donation is one, as those Baptized into Christ that is to exemplify our own daily life. As such it is something we grow into ever more as we are continually filled with Spirit and grow in Grace and Truth. The ritual of gift giving to family and friends is then a small gesture and a token sign of the divine posture of self donation that we are called to emulate in our daily lives as members of the body of Christ.
Church of Jesus Christ Reconciler