On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2: 11
The Christmas story brims with generosity. There is the long-desired child that comes to Elizabeth and Zachariah. John the Baptist prepares the hearts and minds of a people waiting and longing for the Messiah. The gracious hospitality of Elizabeth to Mary—the young, pregnant, and most likely frightened teenage girl—who stays at Elizabeth’s home for three months is another example. And then we have the Magi, offering lavish gifts that many scholars believe helped support the family financially, especially on their trip to Egypt.
Over the years, I have listened to my parents recount the story of the Christmas they spent in Israel. They were young, newly married, poor graduate students. After attending a Christmas Eve service at Shepherd’s Field in Bethlehem, they were invited to spend the night with a woman who had connections at the school where my dad was a student. My mom always told with great affection the lovely, yet simple, meal the woman served, the heated water bottle she placed in my parent’s bed before bedtime, and the single rose gracing their bedside. As a young child, I did not appreciate or understand how this memory could evoke such strong emotions in my parents. I was far too worried about the lack of presents. How could anyone be happy with NO gifts?
Little did I realize what a gift my parents received.
Now when I hear that story I have a completely different response. Yes, receiving an actual gift is wonderful. But presents aren’t the only type of gifts. In this case, my parents received the gift of hospitality. The fond memory of that experience has stayed with them through the years.
As we head into the final week of Advent, let us consider some other ways we can give a gift. Perhaps you can offer the gift of time to a lonely friend or an act of service to a neighbor. Maybe you can bake some homemade goodies to share with coworkers. Or maybe you can even host someone in your home whom you may not know very well, like the woman did for my parents. Who knows the impact your gift of time, service, or hospitality may have.
Blessings to you and yours this Advent season.