Christmas gifts of years past.
[Note — this was written in mid-December, as I was busy wrapping gifts for dozens of friends and family members, for charities and hostesses. It is now late January. Hanukkah, Christmas, Epiphany — all those gift-giving occasions have come and gone. This still seems Important.]
The Magi traversed wild deserts and hostile trails seeking the new-born king whose star they saw. They went to Bethlehem to take the baby gifts — gold, frankincense and myrrh — things of this world, material things. Why, when we are told so often and so harshly that Christmas is too materialistic, would the Three Kings have been the first to bring the Christ Child gifts of this world?
In the Catholic teaching, God gave us bodies, and a world of plants and animals, seas and mountains, fields and orchards to live in. Then God became human to live among us — in the Catholic teachings, fully God and fully human. He broke and ate the bread, drank the wine, laughed with his friends, and walked the dusty paths of Israel. He welcomed the material gifts, like the ointment from the woman who washed his feet. We owe it to the God who shared these gifts of shape and form, taste and sound with us to appreciate them and in our turn, share them with others.
Instead of rejoicing in gifts this season, we wail about the materialism of the world, and the burdens of giving. It can be tough. We feel pinched for time and money. The demands appear insatiable. Who has any idea what a teenage boy wants — that we can afford or appropriately give him? Or a friend of exquisite taste? Or someone living out their last days asleep in a nursing home? Not to despair — there is always something to give, from a tech-friendly gift card, to an hour sitting beside the sleeper as a quiet companion.
If we don’t want to take the Christian view of the season, we can see the holiday as a chance to show our deep delight in the world we live in. The fact that we are body intertwined with spirit means that our relationship with everything around us is one of interaction. It is not given to us to reproduce just in the most physical sense. Every time we cook, garden, clean, create a song, make a child, throw a pot, write a story, we share in the creation of and maintenance of the world. Resting, enduring, pushing the Sisyphean rock up the hill, we share in the creation and maintenance of the material world. It is our gift and our task.
As artists, we have even more responsibility. If we don’t share the things that we create with our talents as gifts to others, and recognize the talents of our fellow artists by giving others their work, how can we think that people in general will take the time to do that? It doesn’t seem to me to be an either-or. Each aspect, material and spiritual, supports and enlarges the other.
Snowflakes, a gift (Micki Glueckert, December 8, 2013).