Christmas is just around the corner. I love the way Christmas energizes our sense of giving. One thing I love about Christmas gifts and giving is the fact that I do not know what I am getting.
It does not mean that I do not want anything, but … I want to be surprised. I do not want to know. I love the unexpected.
When I was a boy, one Christmas I got this large gift, plainly wrapped in paper, no box or anything. I could feel that it was a car, and when I got all the paper torn off, it was a large convertible. This was during the second World War, and our country, Denmark, was occupied by the Nazi regime and our stores were only allowed to carry toys made in Germany.
My brother was working in my aunt’s toy store and, if a toy was broken, he was often allowed to take it home and give the toys to us after he fixed them. It was a large toy that could be wound up with a key attached to one side. It was a Mercedes Benz and the driver was Adolph Hitler.
We could wind it up and, when we let it go, it would charge through the living room. It was an exciting, unexpected gift and the family suddenly stopped and we all played with it, though I remember that my father was not looking too happy about it.
Giving is such an important part of life, and at Christmas it becomes an essential part of the celebration. I was reading recently about something that happened in the Holy Land not long ago. A Palestinian youth had been killed in a skirmish between some Jewish settlers and some Palestinians. His family decided that his organs should be given for organ transplants, and five people were given these organs. The heart was given to a Jewish man, whose family, deeply moved, thanked the Palestinian parents for the gift that saved their son’s life.
In the book of Isaiah, we read how the people will go to the house of God and will learn how to live God’s ways. And it continues …
They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:4b)
I pray that it might happen in our lifetime — that we will come together and repent what we do and say to each other. No one should be made to feel like the gentleman who recently wrote a letter to the editor of this paper in which he felt that in the talk among the presidential candidates it was suggested that he, as a Muslim, did not qualify for the full benefit of our Constitution. When I read that I, for one, wanted to apologize to him for such un-Christian behavior targeted at him and his fellow believers.
Advent and Christmas for us Christians is the training ground for witnessing to a Savior who in His Gospel said, “God so loved the world.” This time in our church year is when I want to ask the Lord, as did King David in Psalm 51, “ … restore to us the joy of your salvation.” That is part of the training. To have joy in the care for all of humanity. Not just the ones we like.
Jesus came to give new hope to each individual heart. He came to move us beyond ourselves. He told us that our loving relationship to God and to each other was the most important thing.
He came for each of us, and now again we can take time to train our Christian hearts to focus on how to care for all of humanity. Because … God so loved the world. Amen!
The Rev. Oluf Kongshaug is a retired Presbyterian minister. In retirement, he has served as interim pastor for several area churches.