The Gifts We’ve Been Given

Homily to the Members of Sion Community when the community gathered for the first time after Christmas (8 January 2019)

Look at the gifts we have been given!

This week, from Epiphany to the Baptism of the Lord, is a week to behold! – To behold, that is, the gifts we have been given.

In our liturgies this week, Mother Church holds together mysteries which show us who Jesus really is. Look at the gift of the child in the manger! Look at the gifts brought from the East, which tell us who he really is! Look at the power of God at work in Jesus, turning water into wine and multiplying loaves! These are called ‘theophanies’, showings of God’s presence and power.

In the Eastern churches, part of their liturgy is that just before the people come to Holy Communion, a minister will declare ‘God’s holy gift for God’s holy people’. So yes, today let’s look at the gifts we have been given! The gift of the Christ-child; the gift of Holy Communion; and not least, the holy gift of one another!

Today is our Community Christmas Day, when we will exchange gifts. Perhaps gift-giving loses some of its power when it is organised, or ‘expected’. A Christmas or birthday gift might lack the emotional impact of an unexpected gift given by a friend ‘just because’. But love is an act of our will, and even when we give gifts at an expected time or in an organised way, let’s not take for granted that the gift has been given. A wilful expression of generosity is always an act of love; and because of the way we organise our Christmas gift-giving, each individual gift is an expression of our love for all the members of our community.

Look at the gifts we have been given! Not least, our community, which is our gift of ourselves to one another. St John says, ‘let us love one another’, and that is part of our commitment in community; if our community means anything, it means an organised way of loving one another, as well as loving a world which needs to hear the Gospel anew. Today is also, in a way, our community ‘New Year’s Day’ as we begin again the work of mission. It is a day for new year resolutions. It is a day for making peace, and a fresh start, with any member with whom we need to build a bridge. Don’t put off until tomorrow a word of reconciliation which can be spoken today.

Look at the gifts we have been given! Not least the spiritual gifts and natural talents God has entrusted to each one of us. Jesus challenged the Apostles: ‘Give the people something to eat yourselves!’ This year, God will challenge us to give of ourselves, perhaps drawing out latent gifts or pushing us beyond our comfort zone. This is what love does – it goes beyond for God’s sake, and by going beyond it broadens our tent pegs so we can gain more ground for God. So this year, as an act of love, give of yourself. Have confidence in what you have to offer. Even if it is a small as two sardines, God can bless and multiply your offering, with astonishing results. But we must give of ourselves! Why not try volunteering for something new this week? As for me, this week I’ll be cooking a meal for 30 people for the first time!

Look at the gifts we have been given! We return to the greatest of all gifts, the gift of the infant Messiah. Our psalmist has declared that ‘All nations will fall prostrate’ before God. We do this, physically, on Christmas Day, by pausing and keeling at the words ‘was made man’. Since this is our Community Christmas, I am going to invite us to do the same thing today. If you wish to prostrate yourself rather than keeling, feel free to do so.

Look at the gifts we have been given! Before our Creed, let’s take a few moments in silence to decide how to respond to so much love!