By Fr. John Abdalah
In a discussion about donuts at coffee hour, a parishioner asked me what he gets from the Church besides donuts! “Opportunities,” I replied. "The Church gives you the opportunity to be the Christian you were baptized to be."You get the opportunity to gather as the Church of Christ; to praise God and take care of the world and those who live in it. The Church gives you an opportunity to be fed by the Word of God with His words and His life. The Church gives you an opportunity to serve, to witness to Christ, to love and to live in Christ. If you take advantage of these opportunities you can begin your eternal life now. But for you to take advantage of these opportunities, you need to give. You need to give your time, energies and resources.
It could be said that you need to give yourself. Without giving yourself in cooperating with God, you can’t have anything. In order to join with Christ, you need to detach from anything that would separate you from God. You need to be in Christ, you need to open yourself to having God abide in you as you abide in Him.
The Theotokos is the greatest example of one who accepts God abiding in her and abiding in Him. In His Nativity, we see how God abided in Mary. In this Christmas Feast, we come to understand that we give space in our lives to bear Christ and to give ﬂesh to His Word. Like Mary, we make room for God and reveal Him to the world. We do this as we decorate our homes and desks, as we wear pins and little wreaths, as we greet each other with holiday greetings, proclaiming that Christ is born, and by gift-giving. With gifts we show appreciation for each other. We demonstrate how the other has value. We value our family, our friends, our parish, our ministries and God’s people, most particularly those who are without food, shelter or clothes.
Current economic conditions have offered us new challenges to be better stewards of what we have and to share the gifts that God has given us. Our Church on both the local and Archdiocesan levels presents many opportunities to give of the time, energy and resources that God has given us. Our Church gives us opportunities to be Christian; to praise God and to serve His people. This opportunity is central to our being, learning and growing. It is central to our process of salvation.
Mary is also the great example of abiding in God and God in us, in her Dormition. In the icon of the Feast of the Dormition, we see Mary both reposed on a cot and being lifted up by Christ her son and Savior. Mary, who said Yes to having God abide in her, is taken to abide in God for ever. Mary gave herself to God, to give birth to the Word. She gave her life to nurture and guide the Word. She gave herself to stand by Him, even at the cross. Like Mary, we are to do all of these things in our own homes and in our own ways.
Every day God gives us opportunities to give. Giving brings joy and life. This giving is not just for December or Christmas-time, but it is for joy at all times. Still, Christmas is an opportunity to relearn the joy of giving and to rededicate ourselves to Christ our God. Glorify Him in all that you do, even in serving each other donuts at coffee hour!