Just a reminder that men’s ministry tomorrow is being replaced by a work/fellowship/food day at the Vannoys’. While it’s a re-purposing of men’s ministry, women are certainly welcome. Please RSVP with Julie so we can order the right amount of pizza for lunch (breakfast is mostly up to you, though we’ll have coffee and donuts at 9:00a when we begin). You can get an idea of the projects lined up by checking the list at the end of this email. Thanks.
It’s true that Christmas has been monetized, but gift-giving is nevertheless ancient. In a letter to the Church historian Eusebius, Gregory of Nyssa ( 335-395AD) speaks of “the custom in these general holidays for us to take every way to show the affection harbored in our hearts, and some, as you know, give proof of their good will by gifts….”
Gregory’s gift to Eusebius that year was the letter itself because in it, he explains, he “unwraps” the gift of Christ “stooping down to the lowliness of our mortal nature.” He writes that just as daylight is restored to Earth after the solstice, so Christ’s coming to restore life to man is marked at Advent. In this, Christ is himself God’s “dispensation on behalf of our souls” — God’s gift to us.
This is how I’ve always heard it explained: we give gifts because Christ was given to us. Or perhaps we give gifts in some echo of the Magi, offering riches like vassals paying tribute, honoring others as we might honor Christ. Either of these could work, but I suspect gift-giving is something else.
Through a gift we bring joy to someone for whom we have “affection harbored in our hearts,” bearing in ourselves (or our wallets) whatever the cost might be. There’s no avoiding the relationship between their gain and our loss, not to mention our obvious willingness to encounter that loss as a measure of our love. The extravagant gift that shocks us in its generosity is the one that ties us forever to the person who cared for us at such expense. We are humbled and renewed, maybe restored in some way, by their love. They have unsettled and settled us at the same time: unsettled us because such love is rare; settled us because love is the home we long for.
Finally, when we give a gift like that, it also binds us to Christ. Because He gave at a cost, the deeper we go into costly giving, the deeper the understanding between us becomes. Just as Paul’s desire “to know Christ, the fellowship of sharing in his suffering, becoming like him in his death” was not really a desire to suffer but to be united to Christ, so our giving at great cost binds us to Christ, and the cost becomes increasingly irrelevant. Lewis again: “the only thing you keep is what you give away.”
– Pastor Eric
Vannoy Workday Projects:
Take down trees (some tricky ones leaning toward buildings)
Clear blackberry bushes
Spread wood chips
Move wood pile
Sort/discard junk left by former owner
Mowing (weather permitting)
Spray treatment on roof