Saturday, December 31, 2005

SEVEN SWANS A SWIMMING
A reflection for the seventh day of Christmas

Go ahead, open the seventh gift. What is it? Oh, it is a gift! What is inside that gift? Oh, another gift! And what is inside THAT gift? Hey, another gift! And another. And another. And another. And still another. You get the feeling that you could keep opening boxes inside of boxes, gift upon gift. Such is the multiplicity and diversity of spiritual gifts given by God.

GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT. The specific gifts recalled on the seventh day of Christmas since the sixteenth century are those listed in Romans 12: Prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, compassion. Many more could be named. But whatever the gift, it is vital to know this: spiritual gifts are given for the sake of empowering people of faith to join God in sharing Good News, bearing grace, and making real the anticipated Reign of God.

FOR COMMUNITY BUILDING. The spiritual gifts described in Romans 12, as well as in 1 Corinthians 12 and elsewhere throughout the Epistles, are essential gifts for forming, sustaining, and extending community. Spiritual gifts are about community. Not about personal advancement. Not about possessing. A spiritual gift is not a spiritual gift unless it is selflessly shared. A community will be a thriving and vital community when graciously given gifts are freely and strategically shared. What better follow-up to Christmas than for gifts, great and small, to be turned toward serving and building up the community?

DIVERSE AND USEFUL. It has become an inadvertent tradition in our household to keep a few opened gifts on the skirt around our Christmas tree for days after the 25th. Big gifts get whisked away, played with, put on, plugged in. But to this day a few small ones remain under the tree: a box of fireplace matches, a bottle of cologne, a bag of potpourri, a couple of games, a basket of crafts, a book, a flashlight, a quote a day calendar. Not the most expensive or desirable gifts, but useful ones just the same. They remind me of the diversity and usefulness of spiritual gifts, particularly less desirable ones.

ENTIRELY RELATIONAL. Like the faith, hope, and love received on the third day of Christmas, the gifts we receive today are spiritually perceived, inwardly apprehended, and entirely relational. Perhaps we will never know our gifts, or what impact on a relationship, neighborhood, church, or community we can have until we start to serve, to give, to lead, to show mercy, to teach, to encourage, to declare what is burning in our hearts. Why not start today?

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