Advent 2014 – Devotion 3

What’s on your Christmas list? What gifts would you like to receive?

Some years ago, Bill Parsons, a Russian history professor, hosted a guest from Russia for several weeks. She was working with him on the Two St. Petersburgs Project. She had a son the same age as ours. We talked with our son about sending a gift home with this mom for her son. Something special from Florida. Our son had several toy plastic alligators. We decided this would make a good gift. We got the alligators together to choose one. The largest was probably about 2 1/2 feet long. The smallest maybe 10 inches. Our son chose the largest one to give to this child in a far off country. We were impressed. That was his favorite and the one he played with the most. And he chose to give it away.

When we presented the gift the eyes of our Russian friend got wide and she very politely said that she could not accept this gift. She said that is was simply too big. They lived in a very small apartment and there wasn’t room for something so big. A smaller alligator was selected, given, and received with relief and gratitude.

I think there are some good lessons here – about accepting limitations. Being honest. Not taking on too much. This holiday season can be a time of excess. Too much eating. Too much shopping. Too much drinking. Too much activity and frenzy.

We are told in the New Testament that Jesus led a simple life, materially. He didn’t own much. He could carry what he owned. He didn’t have property and possessions to take care of, maintain, and store. By living in a materially simple way, he was free to be generous, to be compassionate, to enjoy time with friends, to appreciate nature, and to serve. It’s important to remember the connection between the openness and availability to live an abundant life and material simplicity.

Of course, Jesus was also known as a glutton and a drunkard! And for hanging out with friends in low places! [Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34]

Reflection: Think about how you are creating space in your life for love, compassion, meaningful relationships and service. Are there ways to keep the tidal wave of activity this season at bay? Are we making time for what is most important?

Prayer: In this hectic season, may we pause, reflect, listen, and see the meaning and beauty around us and within us and others. May we not overstuff our bodies or our homes. May our consumption be gentle to the earth. In our pursuit of the Jesus life may we find true freedom. Amen.

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