Tuesday, December 06, 2011

First Saturday of Advent

Even though you offer me
         your burnt offerings
         and your grain offerings,
   I will not accept them;
and the offerings of
         well-being of your
         fatted animals
   I will not look upon.
Take away from me the
         noise of your songs;
   I will not listen to the
         melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like
   and righteousness like an
         everflowing stream.
           Amos 5:22-24

For a good part of my life (with occasional backsliding still), I believed that I had to get people gifts.  Not just a gift, but gifts; not just any gift, but the right gift; not just for a birthday, or Christmas, but both of those days and some in between.  I was convinced that it was the number of gifts, the quantity not the quality if you will, which would demonstrate how I felt about any particular person.  It didn't matter how close we were, it didn't matter how deep our relationship ran, the day-to-day relationship didn't matter, it all came down to gifts.  Thank goodness that our society has created so many special days, so that someone like me could give a gift, or at the very least a card.

Our ancestors fell into the trap of thinking that it was the number of offerings which they made to God which would convince God how they felt.  And so, festivals were created so offerings could be made (sound familiar?), assemblies were held so a loud noise could be made, folks took every opportunity to try to demonstrate to God the depth of their feelings.

But God doesn't want a bunch of gifts (after all, if anyone has everything they need, it's God!), God wants a bunch of people who will offer themselves in service to the world which is hurting, which is hateful, which is violent.  God doesn't want a lot of words spoken or sung, God wants those whose lives have been transformed by the Word, to go out and speak tenderly, compassionately, hopefully to those who hear only the sounds of rejection, of exclusion.  God doesn't want a lot of special days hallmarked by cards, or knickknacks, or presents.  God wants us to spend every day keeping our eyes open for those who have lost their way, picking up those who have been knocked down by society, listening to those whose cries have been ignored, speaking up for those whose voices are drowned out by greed and apathy.

It's not about gifts when it comes to God, it's about justice, about righteousness, about peace and reconciliation, of joy and wonder, all the gifts God has poured into our lives like an overflowing river, simply hoping we won't dam them up for ourselves alone.

(c) 2011  Thom M. Shuman

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