During the Christmas season and during life in general, it is easier to concentrate on what we are receiving rather than what we are giving. It is also easier to concentrate on the material gifts we have received or given, rather than the more abstract – and usually more meaningful – gifts. Thus, when I started reflecting on giving, I started by thinking about the material things I have received. I thought of the cross stitch my mom gave me last year at Christmas as well as the duffle bag my dad gave me for my 21st birthday. Why did these items come to mind and what made them so important? The cross stitch was something my mom had spent months making me, a skill that her mother, my grandmother who died before I was born, taught her. The duffle bag reads “J. Snodgrass” because it was the bag the Navy issued my dad when he enlisted.
The significance in these gifts does not lie in what object they are or even the fact that I had received them – it lies in the fact that my parents gave me a part of themselves. Although they did so symbolically through material objects, they chose to give more.
I don’t know that there is a more authentic way to give than to give a part of oneself. The Advent season challenges us to give more fully to God, to really open up our hearts and consciously share with Him our intentions, feelings, thoughts and action. Being in deeper relationship with God also calls us to be in deeper relationship with those around us – to give a part of oneself to others. This type of giving requires us to trust and to be vulnerable, which makes it difficult to do. Sometimes it is even scary. However, when we do rise to the challenge and share a part of ourselves (rather than running to the mall to pick up the pair of shoes they just had to have) we give the true meaning of the Advent season. Giving more can look a variety of ways — such as being truly present to others, forgiving someone who has hurt us, starting a difficult conversation with someone we have hurt, telling someone how much they mean to us, or sharing our great joys and sorrows with a friend – but always calls us to open our hearts to the love of God and others. This love is the gift that doesn’t stop giving and that we will always remember – like my cross stitch or duffle bag. It is the gift that God gave us in the fullest and most authentic way by the birth and death of His only son. It is also the gift He calls us to give now and when the Advent season is over.
Rachel Snodgrass is a Junior Occupational Therapy major from Cincinnati, Ohio. Last summer she was a Summer Service Intern working at United Cerebral Palsy. Rachel is a twin, yet they look nothing alike and he goes to another school.