Advent: Community Gift Exchanges
When it comes to revealing Jesus’ birth, God does something I’ve seen him do many times: tell multiple people. He talks to Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph about what is going to happen in and through them. But, he also tells Simeon, Anna, the shepherds outside Bethlehem and the Magi. These are just what we have recorded in the birth stories, there could be others, as well as the prophets of old who spoke of a coming king.
It is so encouraging when someone ‘confirms’ what you are hearing God say to you. It must have been a huge gift for Mary to visit a pregnant Elizabeth (and vice versa), to have Joseph share with her about what the angel said to him during that dream, to have the shepherds and the Magi come, to have Simeon and Anna recognize who Jesus was as just an infant.
It is a powerful antidote for doubt. It provides companionship, resources and support needed to do what God has called us to. It is real strength and courage to walk out the challenges of life in the Spirit.
During Advent, I’ve been looking at what marked God coming near in Jesus’ birth and what that may tell us about how God comes near us today. One of the clear ways he does this is through community. He doesn’t just talk to one person or tell one person to go and do it alone. He brings multiple people together, to coordinate, corporately discern, share resources, encourage and strengthen each other—to exchange gifts with each other.
How have you experienced this? Who are people in your life who encourage, help and support you? How has God moved through you in partnering with others?
One of the greatest gifts you can give others is growing in intimacy with God, in discerning and being responsive to what God is saying to you and to others through you. Being open to the Spirit and sharing what God is saying with an aim to edify and in a posture of love—this has been the source of the most significant gifts people have given me over the years. And it can be as simple as asking God: God, when you look at this person what do you see? What is your perspective? What are you up to? Give it a ‘go’, especially with some of the people you may get (have) to be around this next week of Christmas. You may be surprised how different something/someone so familiar can look—through someone else’s eyes.