Lewis Center Director Doug Powe reimagines the common practice of regifting an unwanted gift. He invites us to think of regifting positively — as a way of passing along to others the welcome Advent gifts of joy, hope, peace, and love.
Most of us have received a gift we did not need or one that did not quite fit our personality. It has become common practice for many to regift these unwanted gifts by giving them to someone else. Some people even keep a bin of unwanted gifts to regift at the office holiday party or some other festive occasion. But what if we thought about regifting differently? What if we committed to passing along to others the gifts of joy, hope, peace, and love. Practicing this form of regifting in our congregations can deepen our engagement with the Advent season.
Many people experience loneliness during the holiday season, for example, those in senior living facilities whose families live far away. It can be especially challenging to see others surrounded by loved ones when there is no one there for you. We should all commit to the practice of regifting joy to those who need to experience God’s love during Advent. Taking a few minutes from the hustle and bustle of cooking, shopping, etc., to sit with someone who needs companionship more than material things is a transforming gift.
It is easy to lose hope and live in fear when we see, hear, or read about attacks on innocent bystanders all over the world. As Christians we should be the bearers of the good news of hope. In the midst of all that is going on around us, we should continue to point toward a different kind of future where, in the words of Isaiah, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat.” (Isaiah 11:6, NIV) Regifting hope to those living in fear is a gift that can open the door to possibilities they never imagined.
We often think about the need for peace between nations or high-profile individuals. Certainly, we want peace in the world. But we also should think about the fractures in our families, congregations, and communities. It can be a gift to be the catalyst that ignites a process of peace when family members haven’t talked to each other in so long that they can’t even remember why. Addressing the elephant in the room and dealing with the friction in your congregation can be a gift. Seeking ways to move your community toward wholeness instead of division can be a gift. Regifting peace does not need to be a Nobel Prize endeavor. The truth is that bringing peace to any situation is hard work. But it is something we all can and should do, beginning with those closest to us.
In some ways, we are more loving during the Advent season. It is not uncommon for individuals to give more to charities or to help more in other ways during this time of year. But expressing love in these ways may not take us out of our comfort zones. Loving outside of our comfort zones is challenging. Just ask the lawyer who tried to trap Jesus with the question, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) Jesus uses a story to help the lawyer expand his understanding of neighbor. It may be time for us to expand who we see as our neighbor by doing a joint Christmas Eve service with a congregation that is racially different from our own. It may be time for us to partner with a congregation different from us to sing carols together in their neighborhood and ours. Regifting love should help us to engage those whom we often overlook and join with them as our neighbors in celebrating God’s love.
Some perceive regifting negatively. A regifted item can seem like second-hand goods. But during this Advent season, regifting is exactly what is needed so that we can share joy, hope, peace, and love with others. We should all practice regifting in this manner because truly we believe the gifts of joy, hope, peace, and love will sustain our lives as we wait expectantly.