Guest blogger: The gifts of the Child Christ by Paula Mitchell

Above all else, know this: Be prepared at all times for the
 gifts of God and be ready always for new ones. For God is 
a thousand times more ready to give than we are to receive.
                                   ~Meister Eckhart

Wilkie Au and Noreen Cannon in their book Urgings of the Heart write, “Living in an achievement-oriented society, many of us are influenced by an achievement-oriented spirituality, in which there is no place for receiving. We resist being indebted and insist on working for whatever we get. This attitude stands in the way of our receiving from God, who continually invites us to draw near to obtain what we need.”[1]  [2]

For many of us this achievement-oriented spirituality keeps us from drawing near to receive God’s gifts. What’s so remarkable about the amazing events of the first Christmas is that the participants in God’s story, the birth of Jesus, draw near to receive the gifts of the Child Christ.

Mary, after questioning how this can be, responds to the angel Gabriel’s message declaring, “I belong to the Lord, body and soul, let it happen as you say.”[3] She ponders God’s unexpected gift, proclaiming, “He has done great things for me.” Joseph sets aside his dreams in order to be open to God’s invitation to a life radically different than his wildest expectations.

The gift of silence taught Zechariah to receive a son destined to prepare the way for the Lord. Elizabeth receives God’s mercy in taking away the stigma of being barren. Zechariah announces God’s kindness in sending a light from heaven to guide us to the path of peace. Simeon and Anna, prepared by God’s Spirit, draw near and literally receive the infant Jesus, God’s promised Messiah. Humble shepherds rejoice with the angels at his birth. The sight of his star fills the wise men with indescribable joy as they bow and worship Christ the newborn king.

Invited to draw near and participate in God’s salvation plan, they say, “yes” and receive the gifts of the Child Christ, God’s unasked for, unlikely gift to the world. Saying “yes,” meant letting go of their hopes and dreams, plans and security, in order to consent to something bigger than what they could see, understand, or even imagine.

We, too, can draw near and wait with a sense of expectation and wonder for God to open us up to new life. Invited by God to let go of our achievement-oriented spirituality, we prepare our hearts to receive God’s gifts this Christmas. “Christmas is a gift of love wrapped in human flesh and tied securely with the strong promises of God. It is more than words can tell, for it is a matter for the heart to receive, believe and understand.”[4] Invited to receive the gift of God’s love, wrapped in the vulnerability of human flesh, we experience God’s tender mercy in sending us light to dispel the darkness of sin and death. “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”[5]

As we receive the gifts of the Child Christ, God gives us a deeper experience of his kindness, love, mercy and grace. We begin to understand, It is God who is at work within us, giving us the will and the power to achieve his purpose”.[6] Trusting, God is at work, we learn it’s not so much about what we do, instead it’s about what God is doing in and through us. Trust creates in us a receptive openness to God’s Spirit. Focused on Christ, we are invited to participate in his redemptive work in our homes, neighborhoods, city, and world.

We share the amazing good news, God decided to let his people know this rich and glorious secret which he has for all people. This secret is Christ himself, who is in you. He is our only hope for glory.” [7] Christ in you, God’s amazing gift to the world!

“Go now into the world, carrying Christmas with you into everyday life. Open the inn within you and make room for that Gift of gifts, even our Lord Jesus Christ”.[8]

¤

[1] Wilkie Au and Noreen Cannon, Urgings of the Heart (New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1995), p. 5.

[2] Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” RSV.

[3] Luke 1:38 J. B Phillips.

[4] Unknown.

[5] Isaiah 9:6 NLT.

[6] Philippians 2:14 J.B. Phillips.

[7] Colossians 1:27 NCV.

[8] Weems, Ann Barr, Reaching for Rainbows (Westminster, John Knox Press, 1980), p. 90.

Paula Mitchell is the founder and executive director of Doorways Ministries. A spiritual director, retreat facilitator, writer, wife and mother of four grown sons, she is the city coordinator of the Ignatian Spirituality Project, a Jesuit organization dedicated to offering spiritual retreats inspired by Ignatian Spirituality to people experiencing homelessness.

 

 

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