What Gifts Do You Bring?

I always dread this time of year, when the decorations come down, the ornaments are put away, and the Christmas music is again replaced with the radio’s latest pop hits. I try to put this inevitable part of the season off as long as I possibly can—but eventually it comes, that terrible moment when I realize that I simply can’t deny it any longer. 

Christmas is over. 

Yes, it’s come to an end, this magical season. I am overcome with the post-holiday blues, suck it up, make the trek back down to the basement to come up with the boxes…Pack it up, Amy! I say to myself. Christmas will roll around again next year; it always does…

But before I actually go downstairs to my basement, I do have one more day of Christmassing. Today is Epiphany, when the wise astrologers from the East came to visit the Christ-Child. Today is actually the 12th—and final—day of Christmas. As we all know so well, they came bearing gifts—luxurious, precious gifts—for the newborn King. Thus, I wonder, too, what gifts might I bring? What gifts might I offer to Christ this year? 

When I was in the Congo this past November, I preached in a church-on-stilts in a fishing village. Folks set up a camp of sorts along the Congo River where they could fish and make some semblance of a living. Fishing means surviving for most of the members of this community. 

After I preached my sermon, translated into the local language of Lingala, I sat back down in my seat and proceeded to watch the members of the church dance forward their offerings. I was overcome by their joy in doing so. I’m serious when I say that they danced their offerings forward. They were thrilled—delighted—overjoyed that they had something to give! This was the highlight of the worship experience! Praise be to God for the opportunity to give what we have! 

And just when I thought it was over, the marvelous African beat continued and they kept dancing. They were invited to give another offering—another offering? I thought. This would never fly in our churches at home! This time they brought forward their gifts for me, the preacher. What? Me? An offering for me?? I could hardly believe it. Their tradition to offer gifts of gratitude for the one who shared the word of God was overwhelming to me. Never has this happened to me in all my travels and visits to preach the Gospel! Wow! 

So I graciously—despite my incredulousness—accepted the three fish that were brought forward. And the long branch of plaintains; the oranges; the money. I felt strange about accepting it, I’ll admit. But I know that to honor the giver you honor the gift. This is what Week of Compassion is all about. 

Honoring the giver and the gift—this is also the best way to honor the receiver.

Friends, I honor you this Epiphany. I honor you for the gifts you bring. I honor you for the offerings you bring to Week of Compassion. I honor you for offering what you have. Most of all, I honor you for giving the best gift of all: yourselves. 

You are your best offering.

Happy 2010!