The Rev. Janice Ford, Rector
The Church of the Reconciliation (Episcopal)
5 North Main Street, Webster, MA
Right about now most folks are absorbed in Christmas shopping. Mind you, I said Christmas shopping, not gift giving. This is not just a question of semantics. There is a real difference. Christmas shopping happens when we ask family members or close friends to “give a list” of what they would like, and then we go from store to store or website to website trying to find the best bargains. Gift giving, however, happens when we take the time to consider our relationship with the person, and come up with a surprise that not only speaks to that relationship, but also demonstrates the time and effort we expended in coming up with just the right thing.
Now, granted, it is an age-old custom that children make lists to give to Santa in the hope that those special things will appear under the tree on Christmas morning. The kind of Christmas shopping Santa must do in those instances is certainly appropriate. My concern revolves around the gift exchange that happens among most adults. Not only is the amount of money we spend on each person often adding to the ridiculous credit card debt we have amassed, but often there is very little thought given to coming up with the perfect gifts for those who mean so much to us.
Some might argue that giving someone something they want is every bit as thoughtful as giving them something we come up with on our own. That may be true on occasion, but the reality is that most of the time it is easier to just go out and buy something asked for than it is to take the time and effort to find something on our own.
God is the perfect gift giver, but God is not Santa Claus. Yes, God knows what we are asking for, and sometimes gives it to us, but more often than not, God is out there “shopping” for just the right thing for us. This can be very frustrating and disappointing. The gift is not what we expected or wanted. We may feel that God is not paying attention and does not care about what we need. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just as every good parent sees and knows what is best for his or her child, God sees and knows exactly what is best for us.
God has the advantage of seeing the “big picture” of our lives, and also knows the best ways to challenge us so that we can have opportunities for growth we may not otherwise have. When we ask for something from God, and we do not receive it, we might want to spend some time considering why. Would God have been present (no pun intended) in what we asked for? Would what we are asking for cause someone else hardship or disruption in their life? Is what we are asking for really a request for a miracle?
God’s time is limitless, and God’s perspective on our needs is unobstructed. We need to trust that, when we do not receive what we ask for from God, God went shopping for just the right gift. We need to say, “Thank you, Lord,” “try on” the gift, and then look in the mirror to see the reflection of how much better a person we can be.