Jan. 06, 2016:
(Friends, my mother’s illness and death, and all the extra involvements added to my life because of them, caused me to fall off my intention to keep up the prompts for the 12 Days of Christmas. I got the prompt for the First Day of Christmas created, but then, I went to radio silence! I wanted to apologize and mark the end of the season with one last prompt. Also, to exhort you to wish and pray for our Orthodox Christian sisters and brothers who celebrate Christmas tomorrow!)
“Because our value is a gift, we don’t have to prove ourselves, only to express ourselves…” ― William Sloane Coffin
Today is, in tradition, when the Wise Ones arrive in Bethlehem to offer their gifts to the baby Jesus: Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh — a precious metal, incense and anointing oil, gifts befitting a king. But the irony, of course, that in that holy tableau, it’s the Christ child who is God’s great gift to the Magi… and all of the rest of us.
Christianity suggests that we humans and all the rest of creation are inherently, ultimately valuable. It is not because we have value that we are loved. But because we are loved we have value. Our value is a gift, not an achievement.
You are precious, or irreplaceable value because God created you. Because God sustains you. Because God redeems you.
All this God-action, not because we have done or can do or will ever do anything to deserve or earn it. But as grace that flows from God’s love for the creatures and creation of God’s own making.
Whether or not you — always or ever or never — know, claim, believe or feel it, you are ultimately valuable. That’s why God sacrifices to send Christ into the world for you. Your value, like your life itself, comes as a gift of God.
Coffin’s insight is that the truest or most abundant life is not about making a case for yourself, proving your value, earning God’s love. It’s not about all the accomplishments or accolades you pile up. You already have all that, from the get, as a given! God loves you. Thanks be to God.
Therefore, all you need to do is express yourself; let flow what God has given you; share who you have been created to be; be yourself completely, unapologetically, without fear.
It’s perhaps the deepest spiritual truth, spoken by one of the ancient church fathers, “The glory of God is a human fully alive.”
The final assignment for this Christmas season (and the first assignment for the rest of your life):
1) Identify some way that you have been hiding or holding back or just too afraid to be yourself.
2) Once you’ve identified some aspect of yourself you’ve kept hidden or been ashamed of, try and imagine God smiling at your recognition. Even laughing in delight. So that you might see that God loves you not just in spite of but even because of __(you fill in the blank)__
3) See if you can come up with some way to let this aspect of yourself out, even just a bit. Pray to God about it. Tell just one person. Act on it, even if in a way hardly anyone would notice. It may only be baby steps. But they come before one can walk.
And we are to be walking all around, without worrying so much, being ourselves for all the world to see, as some reflection of God’s creativity and glory. This after all is the gift you have to give Jesus. And a blessing to share with everyone else… being yourself.
Extra credit: Read Psalm 139 at least two times today (again– we read it on Dec. 9 and Dec. 19 as part of the Living Advent Calendar), with significant time in between the readings. If God really knows you that well inside and out — and loves you still, or even that much more for knowing you so intimately — what is it that causes us to be fearful that others might see, sense or know who we really are?