I recently had an evening meal with a group of Afghan refugees, called a Jamshod dinner. Most of our Afghan people are from the Hazara areas, violently persecuted by the Taliban. Our Chair for the evening, Mahamod, recently received news of an attack on his village and 55 people were killed. In the course of the evening, I was asked to explain why Australia celebrates Christmas and why we give gifts.
Today’s Gospel answers that question.
Mary is gifted by God (and so is human history).
Mary, in turn, flees from the locals to visit and gift Elizabeth. John leaps in the womb and the world rejoices in Elizabeth’s words of gift; “Of all women you are the most blessed” (gifted)!
I suggested in a different language, the above truths and offered the thought that we gift to others in appreciation of what God has gifted to us. There were nods of understanding. On the other side, I attended a funeral service, run by the wife and children for a very gifted man; no hymns, no prayers, no blessings, no mention of thanks for the great talents and undoubted gifts the dead man possessed. It seemed that all was taken for granted.
Like many traditions, gift giving is renounced by some today, particularly at Christmas. We don’t have to be as extravagant with our gifts; we can’t possibly match the offering of the Tremendous Lover, but we can offer gifts to others that remind us of what God has done for us. This we can do personally, and our Christian founded nation can and ought to do, even if they call it Foreign Aid. And it ought to be aid for the people without strings and not for the ruling class.
May your Christmas be one of loving gift-giving and receiving ‘in the widest possible sense’, that card, that phone call, that visit, that smile, that handshake, that extra minute of meaningful exchange. May it remind everyone that we take nothing for granted and relish that we are gifted in life and faith. May we strengthen our families, and may we have a healthy dose of the peace promised to people of good will.