Weather Report December 2017

I have a friend who has everything. Giving him a gift is a challenge. He prefers to own absolutely everything he uses. This includes buying expensive tools that he will use sparingly. I have been eager to lend him one of these things on occasion, only to be graciously refused. Part of what my friend wants is to never be obliged to others, I think.
Christmas is upon us. There are many things this celebration requires in the way of preparation, buying and wrapping gifts is one. Freely given, gifts do make a claim. They seek to create and maintain links and bonds between family and friends. My friend who refuses to borrow anything from anyone does quite the opposite himself; he his very generous in lending and giving. I have not worked up the courage to tell him that by refusing my loan I feel he denies me a bond with him.
Gifts will be at the center of our Advent and Christmas worship this year. The theme in our worship is taken from a passage in Romans 11.29.  Ever-broadcasting good news about the grace of God, Paul adds that “the gifts of God are irrevocable.” He is speaking specifically of God’s mercy, God’s response to human disobedience. Nothing can adversely affect God’s mercy. God’s gifts do not change and cannot be reversed.
Each Sunday in Advent, a child will process alongside the choir and worship leaders bearing a beautifully wrapped gift. Extra trouble will have been taken by talented hands to fold and crease the paper around the box and secure it with a bow. The wrapping will declare that the thing inside the box is not a commodity; it is a gift. The gift in these boxes will correspond with the appropriate candles lit at the beginning of worship. The thing concealed in the box will represent Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
At some point in worship, these gifts will be opened and the things previously concealed revealed to the congregation. The attentive gift wrapper will have removed the price of course, and by doing this, convey that the gift is indeed price-less. The Hope, Peace, Joy and Love God gives cannot be secured, only received. 
The gift-receiving during the four Sundays of Advent shall prepare us to receive again the Christ-child on Christmas. In receiving these expensive gifts we in turn accept our dependence upon the Giver and discover a deepening of our bond with God and others.
—Steven