All in the Name of God
As we now move from the table, Turkey, and talk between family, friends, and loved-ones, what is it that we are most thankful for? Do we thank those who teach us, nurture us, guide us, help us, move us, shake us, challenge us, sacrifice for us, enliven us, and treat us with respect? All of these verbs describe the quintessential and archetypal humanity that should be alive in the world today. Jesus, the savior of the world, the finest emulation of God’s self is that which we thank and follow in the Liturgy, the Word, the hospital bed, the funeral home, the Thanksgiving meal. But what does all this ‘thanks’ mean, and is there a bigger picture?
I am referring here to the Three Gs (not the now outdated wireless phone signal), but those Christian values which reflect our end of the year holiday theme of “Giving.” The first G stands for Giving Thanks, to which we have alluded above. We give thanks in the Spirit of Christ; we give thanks because that is what the prophets of old have taught us: “And you will say on that day: give thanks to the Lord, acclaim [God’s] name; Among the nations make known [God’s] deeds, proclaim how exalted is [God’s] name.” And why do we give thanks? Precisely because Jesus has graced us with his presence–that is enough, as the divine has come to dwell with the humanum, the lamb has come to dwell with the goats.
The second G represents giving our time to God the Father, Mother, who births into the world a new creation of light, of love, of justice, of peace. This time of Advent dawns and spawns the nativity scene, yet it is a scene for which we must wait patiently, hoping, acclaiming, purifying ourselves for that special day when the Babe of Bethlehem will arrive. Time is such a wonderful thing, yet it can also be damaging when we turn every notion of our lives into a race against the inevitable clock of deadlines and ultimately death. The time of Advent, the waiting proclaimed is a time which marks the very beginning of an opportunity at eternal life–Jesus, the God-man who ushers in the Reign here and now, he is the symbol of time we most need and must align ourselves with.
Finally, the third G stands at long last the most difficult to accept and grow into. This type of giving is the offering action itself, stemming from the example of God’s gift to all creation. We again struggle to maintain clear direction in the sight of the Christmas holiday, with gifts abound and the spending of hundreds of dollars on such temptations that take us away from what this season is all about–God.
The art of giving is just that, an art! It must be cultivated, lived into, and appreciated for all of its worth. Giving is not about receiving recognition and status, yet as true philanthropists can attest, giving is about the difference that is made in the life of that anonymous small child without a mother or father, the difference that is made on the refugee family struggling to find sustenance and warmth, the difference that is made on the world in a variety of ways. God did just this nearly two millennia ago in a small Middle Eastern village on the outskirts of Jerusalem; God’s gift, the Babe of Bethlehem, the Prince of Peace, would go on to teach us what it means to be a true follower of God. He nurtured us as we trudged through our pains, faults, and inner demons. He sought to guide us through the darkness as he was the Light of the World. He helped us to cultivate within us an attitude of love and forgiveness. He moved and shook us at our very roots, encouraging cooperation amongst all people from all walks of life. He made it his mission to challenge us in our discernment and our vocations, to become people of the Spirit. He would go on to sacrifice his own life for us, bringing the world everlasting salvation and redemption. He moved to enliven us in our compassion and zeal for social justice. He treated the apostles, his followers, his parents, the elders, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and even his captors with the dignity and respect that God’s creation merits.
This man, this exemplar of humanity, is a man of the Three Gs, a man whom we must emulate in our daily actions. From the moment we wake in prayer to the moment we close our eyes in gratitude, we, as labeled Christians, must work to imitate the true and ideal meaning of the gift of giving reserved in the Son of God, yet also preserved in the Holy Spirit!