A few weeks ago it was Christmas (do you remember or have you already forgotten?). Whether we agree or not, a focus for many people at Christmas is PRESENTS! This leads me to ask 2 questions What kind of present buyer are you?
This is rather smug but I do have to admit that I’m pretty good at buying presents – especially for people I know. I put a lot of thought and effort into it, thinking about what they enjoy, what’s going to be a bit different to other things they receive. Sometimes I focus on something that they need, other times what is going to make them smile. There have been a few times over the last few years where people have assumed that someone else has told me what to buy – because it is so perfect. For Christmas I was given a lot of toiletries, I thanked one of my friends who said she always gets something that is slightly luxurious and also that she would be happy to use herself. Often the presents which are the best are the ones which show thought and consideration. These are then the ones which are used and enjoyed the most.
My second question What kind of present opener are you? Last year we spent Christmas Day with friends who had a 3 year old daughter, she had loads of presents, and I mean LOADS. Our friends, her parents, decided that she was going to open them in stages, this meant that she could play with each of them, appreciate each of them, and not be too overwhelmed. I think Christmas presents were being opened for a couple of days.
A few years ago I was told off by my husband. I think it was on my birthday, because I literally just opened everything but didn’t really pay much attention to anything I’d been given. As the person who had bought me presents, he wanted to see my reaction and my appreciation.
The value we are looking at this week is service, so why on earth am I talking about presents?
There are two concepts that are key to a Christian understanding of the world. The sanctity of life and stewardship. These are often taught separately but are inherently linked.
The sanctity of life is the idea that all life is sacred, it is special, it is a gift from God. God didn’t have to make the world, but he did. God didn’t have to make humans, but he did. He didn’t have to make the world beautiful, but he did. He didn’t have to make humans unique, or give them free-will but he did. There are many arguments that suggest it is the beauty within the world, and within people that shows that there must be a greater, thoughtful, being behind it all.
If, as a Christian, we believe that life is a gift from God, that the world is a gift from God, then that is going to affect the way in which we respond to it. This is where stewardship comes in. Appreciating the gift we’ve been given and taking care of it, so that other people can benefit from it as well.
That’s quite a humongous idea isn’t it? Thinking about our own life, and the entire world being a gift for us, and then for us to take care of it – WOW – it’s like being a toddler on Christmas Day.
But it doesn’t have to be daunting, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Like with my friends daughter it is far more beneficial to focus on one thing at time. The world is a big place, but we are just one tiny person. As that one tiny person we can make great amount of difference just where we are, and how we live our lives. This is service. It doesn’t have to be a huge act that everyone knows about, it is just about taking the gift we’ve been given, and using that to bless other people. The example of someone using service is Mother Teresa of Calcutta who has recently been made a saint. She said…
Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.
She lived in an area where people were living on the streets, rejected by society because of illnesses that they had, often which were no fault of their own. Mother Teresa saw all life as a gift from God, not just her own. She didn’t make any grand gestures, she spent time with them, and make them feel that they were worth something again. She recognised what she had been given, and she wanted to give back. She became famous for this, and could easily have let that go to her head, to direct others in what to do, go global, start an organisation, rally the governments. She didn’t, instead she stayed on the streets of Calcutta, and people came to her and followed her example. We can all do that each day. Imagine the difference it would make if all of us did!
God has given us a pretty awesome gift of life. How are we, going to respond to this gift? Are we just going to shrug and say ‘ah that’s nice’? Are we going to think oh my goodness that is so overwhelming I couldn’t possibly do anything with that or to help that? Or are we going to see that gift in the everyday, and respond by recognising that gift in other people, and helping them to recognise that gift too?
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for the gift of life, and the gift of creation. We thank you that it so beautiful and intricate and amazing. We pray that we will appreciate that gift look after it and help others to recognise that gift as well. Amen
Challenge: Each day try to find the gift of life in the everyday, and share that gift with others