Advent IV: The Four Gifts

Here we are, on the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Christmas Day is almost upon us, whether we’re ready for it or not.

We talk a lot at Christmas about giving, and we should. Giving is one of the calls we’re meant to fulfill. But this Advent season I’ve been learning about the art of receiving. With an expensive trip to St. Louis coming up and without an income, I needed to fundraise everything. You’d think it would be easy to accept gifts from people, especially money, but it turns out to be a very humbling thing.

There are many ways of celebrating Advent. One tradition has four words to go with the four Sundays and candles of Advent. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love and appreciate the impact of words and their meanings. These four words seem small but carry within them whole worlds of significance. In this season of preparation, they represent some of the amazing gifts I’ve been given.

Hope — This is a rather elusive gift, and difficult to wrap your head around. Hope is after all the anticipation of something rather than the thing itself; we hope we’ll get at least some of the things on our Christmas lists, but we don’t consider the hope to be a gift. As I’ve been preparing myself for the trip, and looking over what’s going to be happening at this conference, I have reason to hope that I will hear clearly just what my call is and how to act on it; that I will find the answers I’m looking for…and even ones I’m not.

Peace — A week ago, I was worrying my head off over how to pay for this trip. One night it kept me awake for awhile, and I prayed for a miracle. The next day I surprisingly and unexpectedly ran into a friend who gave me a substantial portion of what I had left to fundraise. And more people gave over the past few days than I even expected. In the midst of the bustle and the busyness and the worry such a time brings, I have been given calm. Peace is also more than just calm, it means too a sense of wholeness and completeness; in listening for my call and getting closer to my identity I have started to feel fuller and more complete. And this gives me…

Joy — Over the past couple months, I’ve been given amazing opportunities to exercise some of my gifts and talents and even to find new ones I wasn’t sure I had. And more than that, people have told me time and again how they’ve been blessed by what I’ve done. Even while teetering on the edge of pride I find a great sense of joy in knowing of what I’m capable of when I’m inspired.

Love — I can’t tell you how many ways I’ve been given love lately. Money isn’t even the half of it. The people who are supporting me are people I’ve known for a long, long time. They’ve walked with me, they’ve prayed for me, they’ve been my friends and my community. They’ve given to me not because they want to check off their good deeds list, but because they love me. And that is a remarkably overwhelming thing to realize.

Another word on love: it’s one of those gifts that rebounds on the giver, and that we are called to give abundantly. I may not be able to give a lot back to those who’ve helped me, but I can give love. Love to others in my daily life, and love to God in worship.

And finally, of course, I can give my thanks. I truly am thankful, not just to all who have given of themselves, but also to God for moving in such surprising ways.

The Words of Advent  (Source of pre-modified image: http://blog.loukavar.com/2012/12/13/the-coming-of-god-with-us/)

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