For several years I volunteered at St. Johns Day Center on Sunday afternoons. I spent part of Christmas day there each year. Many of my best Christmas memories were made there, but one more dear to me than all the others.
A group of school children had painstakingly decorated shoe boxes for each of our guests, written a small holiday message inside signed with their name and age, and filled the boxes with small gifts.
I don’t know that on my own I would have noticed- it was Sister Pat who pointed out to me a young man sitting alone at one of the tables. When she pointed him out he had just opened his box. He read the message from the child thoughtfully, then took each item out slowly. First the orange, then the small bag of candy. He ran his hands across the gloves and admired the pair of socks. It was clear that he was pleased with each item. He let them sit for a while on the table and then he attentively placed each item slowly back in the box. For a while the box would sit in front of him, then he would pull it toward him and look at the detailed decorations the child had made. He would open the lid, read the message and remove the contents-again. First the orange, then the bag of candy. After admiring his gifts, he would again place them back in the box. The box would sit in front of him for a while, then he would pull it toward him and he would do it all over again.
I don’t know how many times I watched that man open his box, but I do know that for every time he did, Christmas “happened” for me anew, as clearly it did for him. It was so dear that it almost became painful for me.
And so it is for all of us this Advent. Into our broken shipwrecked lives, comes this gift of extravagant love- again and again.