Reflection: Hope and the Art of Giving
Today we light the candle of hope. Today is the official beginning of Advent and, for many of us, the beginning of the chaos of the Christmas season. For many of us, much of it has become one more ‘busy’ thing to keep us from the things that matter. For some of us, it’s a reminder of loss and grief. For many of us, we spend beyond our budget to keep up with what we’re supposed to be doing. It’s easy to lose sight of the hope in the season.
I, myself, find it to be when the judgements come out. I’m too commercial or I’m not enough commercial and the tables are turned and I’m told I’m too judge-y. I’m too Christian or I’m not Christian enough. I think we’ve ALL been there. Too much. Too little. Right time. Right place. Right lights. Right songs…and all the opinions are different. They say, if you try to write a book everyone will love, no one will like it. You can’t please everyone.
We’re so busy trying to do what’s right, we’ve forgotten how to just be. We try to express our love and joy of our season of Advent and Christmas and we’re met with criticism and then we respond with resistance…that can sometimes turn on our own judgements and anger.
Hope. Jesus didn’t come to spread division. He comes with the spirit of wisdom and understanding. A spirit of council. A spirit of knowledge. A spirit of justice and humbleness and humility.
Love and Hope. Peace.
I’m going to come back to two books I read recently. One: Holy Envy. In it, Barbara Brown Taylor reminds us to remember what it is we love most about our own faith and embody that. It’s probably not judgement and anger we want to spread. But love and peace and hope and joy. We want to spread what Jesus embodied. Love. Think about it; how do we truly spread that love, peace, and hope? How do you want to spread Jesus’s Grace?
Would Jesus would be hanging out on Facebook arguing with anyone over the “reason for the season” or the “Christ in Christmas”? Would Jesus be most concerned about whether someone says to them: Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Holidays. Truly. Dig into your heart. How would Jesus behave? I think he might just say Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or Happy Hanukkah back…as appropriate to spread love.
Yet, it’s easy to get caught up in the busy. It’s easy to get caught up in the over-shopping. It’s easy to meet judgement with anger and resistance. It’s easy to get mad and frustrated. But…(not to coin a phrase, but truly)…what would Jesus do? Or say? Or Be?
Take a step back. Breathe. When in doubt…thank you. Accept a “happy anything” this season with gratitude. Offer a “happy anything” with love, no matter what the return. Share the beauty of faith and Christmas. Don’t argue religion or politics, just embody what your faith has to offer and allow that example to spread the love and hope and beauty of Christmas.
When you get that down, maybe practice gratitude and love for the person who behaves unkindly toward or around you. Remember, that we all have bad days and disagreeable sides.
It’s also easy to become sad. I’m not going to tell you to not feel sad.
I am going to offer us all a thought. This is from the second book I reread recently. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed and sad and sick and we feel like we have nothing left to offer.
What is one of the best things about how we celebrate Christmas? Giving. Yes, we might think it’s gotten out of hand, but it’s root of giving is such a core principle of Love. I’m not going to tell you not to get caught up on the shopping or the stress or the baking…that’s up to you to decide how to celebrate.
But, each day, remember to give. The book I read was called 29 Gifts. In it, Cami Walker is spiraling down in illness and hopelessness with MS. She is in and out of the hospital and sad and desperate and really depressed. She had no strength and felt like she had nothing to give. A friend gave her a ‘prescription’: to give 29 gifts for 29 days straight (if she missed a day, she started from the beginning to keep the energy building). She was to journal each day about what gift she had given.
It was a reminder to look at the simple gifts of daily living, not just the big giving times. It was a reminder that no matter how tired, ill, or sad we are, we have something to give back. Sometimes, it is simple our company. A phone call. A cup of tea together. A card. As a yoga teacher, I remind my students that every moment is a gift, the receiving of Breathe (oxygen) and the giving back of Breathe (carbon dioxide).
What can you give back? Each day. You might realize that you’re giving back all the time without realizing it. Shift the energy and give with intention. Start a “pay it forward” at the coffee shop. Offer a dollar to a homeless person. Bring some flowers to the office.
And watch. I called the gifts “energy”. It is. Watch it. As you give back, you often get back in return more than you gave.
In love and hope. And love.