By Revd Canon Deborah Parsons
Have you ever received an unwanted Christmas present? A Christmas jumper that is brighter than Blackpool’s illuminations; aftershave when you’re sporting a bushy beard; a delicious box of Dairy Milk when you`re diabetic.
My sister is renowned for buying me quirky gifts. One year, I received a universal travel plug; not for an electric socket but for a bathroom sink. This year, I received an environmentally-friendly spray to squirt on toilet paper so that I can make my own wet wipes. Thanks Sis; just what I always wanted.
But on Christmas Day, I also received an unwanted gift from my husband: A positive test result for Covid. He’d tested positive on the 23rd December. When on our wedding day he`d vowed: “All that I have, I share with you,” Covid wasn’t quite what I’d had in mind!
Initially, I felt cheated of the joy of Christmas. Like an exam candidate, who’s revised hard and unexpectedly been told they can`t sit the exam or a marathon runner, who is injured just shy of the finishing line. Let’s be honest, for many people, clergy included, the run up to Christmas can be a bit of a marathon. But I did eventually find the gift in letting go of all our plans and preparation.
The turning point came when a wise friend said to me: “Think of a spiritual teacher who you really admire. Can you imagine how it would be if the door opened and in stepped your teacher who you’d not seen for years. Now imagine how it would be if we could greet every problem in our lives in that way. “Ah, my beloved teacher, thank you so much for coming.”
Covid at Christmas, taught me to make friends with the present moment, whatever I was experiencing in my inner and outer life. Present opening with family was delayed but that made it more meaningful because when we did eventually open them, we were fully present to each other and to the gift-giver. We discovered Emmanuel afresh: God is with us.
After their circuitous journey, the Magi offered Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh but they received a far greater gift. To be in the presence of Love’s very self. Their response: To bow down and worship the Christ-child. The experience was life-changing for them as it is for us. They went home by another way. They were changed people.
In this Epiphany season, may we open ourselves to encountering Christ in unexpected people and unexpected places… and if you have any unwanted gifts, do donate them for the Cathedral Charity Raffle. The proceeds will go to the St. Petrock’s Appeal to support their work for the homeless. In that way, the poverty of our offering can be transformed by the riches of God’s grace.
In love you sent your Son
that the world may have life:
Lead us to seek him among the outcast
and to find him in those in need,
for Jesus Christ`s sake. Amen.