December 10, 2014

By now, if you’re like me, you’ve waited too long. You’ve ignored the advertising mailers that have been arriving daily for the last six weeks. You’ve blocked out the commercials that started before Thanksgiving and have become more intense and frequent. But there is no escape. Frosty the Snowman and the Grinch chase you in your anxious dreams.

Every year I vow to do better. And every year finds me in a last-minute shopping frenzy.

If only I could walk up to the counter of the nearest high-end department store and say: “I’ll take a box of thanksgiving and a box of remembrance. Matter of fact, make it two of each. And could you wrap them up real nice?” That would be easy — too easy.

In gift giving, the thought can redeem the most horrid tie or, in my case, an out of date Ravens-Jets program.

One of my church’s neighbors gave it to me. For more than a year I’d seen her cutting across our parking lot. Every now and then I’d give her a pamphlet of daily scripture readings, as if I were a street corner evangelist peddling Good News. I’d tell her about our services: Easter, Pentecost, Christmas Eve. “You should come,” I’d say. Two months ago she came to an afternoon service, then a morning service the following Sunday. She told me she was going into the hospital.

After she came home, I made a pastoral call. And that’s when I got the program. She wouldn’t let me leave without it. We had Communion, that sacred time of prayer and thanksgiving. And before I could leave, she put the old program in my hand.

Was it to say: “Thank you.” Perhaps. Thank you for the gift of time, of Christ, of relationship by which we can be reconciled to each other and to God.

Before you make that last dash to the mall, consider what you are trying to say.

The Rev. M. Dion Thompson is the rector of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Covenant, Baltimore.

Listen to the audio meditation