As Christmas approaches, many of us are thinking about gifts. The beautifully wrapped packages under the Christmas tree, of course. Also other types of gifts—the kind that we can receive and give at any time of the year. The gifts that require more than a click on a website or a trip to the mall.
I remember a generous gift my husband and my parents gave me in the days when I was the primary caregiver for our young children. Three times, they took on the running of the household and the care of our children, freeing me up to go away for weeks-long study opportunities. For someone who values learning, it was the perfect gift.
Which brings to mind a book that was popular in the 1990s, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. Written by Gary Chapman, a Baptist pastor, the best-selling book outlines five ways that a romantic partner can express love for the loved one: acts of service, gift-giving, physical touch, quality time and words of affirmation. Only one of these involves actual presents; the others require attention, intentionality and maybe even sacrifice. These acts can be carried over into other types of relationships.
This magazine has occasionally reported on ecumenical exchanges between Mennonites and other denominations. A recent article highlighted the five-year conversation among Lutherans, Catholics and Mennonites on the subject of baptism. The resulting document, “Baptism and Incorporation into the Body of Christ, the Church,” includes the term “Gifts received” to describe the ways in which each denomination benefits from the perspectives of the other groups.
There’s a certain humility in acknowledging the richness in other traditions, a necessary attitude if one wants to receive their gifts. That same attitude was called for in a faith-formation class my congregation held on the subject of racism. The regional churches that make up Mennonite Church Canada are seeking to cultivate an “intercultural-church” reality within our denomination. This comes at a time when the dominant culture is learning more about the insidious and destructive effects of racial injustice on people of colour, and on all of North American society.
As the primarily white class discussed how to relate to “the other” who is different from us, at least one thing seemed clear: one task for reaching across boundaries is the mutual sharing of gifts. Guest speaker Fanosie Legesse, who serves as intercultural minister in MC Eastern Canada, encouraged us to look for the “giftings of the Holy Spirit in ‘the other.’” He urged us to consider what each person can receive from, and give to, others.
Throughout his letters to the early Jesus-followers, the Apostle Paul reminded them of the God-given gifts—the talents and the financial resources—represented among them, gifts given for the building up of Christ’s body.
Along with gifts comes gratitude. At this time of year, the Canadian Mennonite team wants to thank those who agreed to have their stories appear in this magazine; this is your gift to all the other readers. We thank you for the gift of your attention, for your letters, email messages and web comments. We are grateful for your donations, which help sustain our ministry. We greatly appreciate the gift of your prayers.
May this Christmas season be a rich time of receiving and giving in the circle you inhabit, whatever the gifts you share. May you see and celebrate the gift of God’s grace, as expressed in the coming of the Christ Child. As Paul writes in II Corinthians 9:15: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”
Digital-only issue ahead
This is the second year in which the CM staff has produced 26 issues of the magazine, four of which are digital-only. This issue will be the last one to appear in print in 2020. The Dec. 21 issue will only go to CM’s digital subscribers, via email. (Content from digital-only issues appears on our website, but print subscribers can also subscribe to the digital editions at no extra cost. Go to canadianmennonite.org/subscribe/digital.) The next print issue will be mailed on Jan. 4, 2021.