When they were just little kids, my children had an unusual way of dragging out Christmas morning. They would open up a gift, tear open the packaging, and begin to play with the toy. It was as if that was the only gift they were going to get. My wife and I would sit there tickled to watch the magic of Christmas come alive. To keep us moving forward, we'd have to convince them to put the toy down and open another. And as you can imagine, we would repeat the same action all over again.
As we enter the Christmas story we do so not with hearts focused solely on the gifts neatly wrapped under the tree, but also on the way we share and wear those gifts in the days and years following. The story of Peter and John at the Temple is a great reminder to us all about the gift that Christ brought us, at his birth as well as in his death and resurrection. It's found in Acts 3:1-10
3 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
A bigger ask Peter and John for money and in response, Peter replies by giving him what he has. The man wanted to be relieved of his financial burdens, but the disciples saw that he needed more. A deeper, more holistic spiritual healing that would require more than simply dropping a few coins in a cup. It would take the physical touch, the presence of Jesus.
Walking with Jesus, the ApostleS had learned from their teacher that poverty is more than lack of material wealth, it's also a physical and spiritual bondage. Peter takes the man by the hand and gives him the gif of new life. A gift that can be open and enjoyed every day.
As we seek to share this gift, the love of Christ, with others we too are invited to follow the examples of Peter and John, and those who over the generations and millennias have done. Proclaim and act. In doing so, we open hearts and minds. We transform lives, heal bodies and souls. We lavish good deeds while we boldly share great love, and the amazing gift of grace that came into our broken and hurting world in the form of a vulnerable babe.
I try to remember this post Easter lesson during the long nights of Advent to keep the perspective of what it means to see Jesus in the face of all people. But it is also important to see into the heart and learn from the actions of those who followed him before me, if I am going to leave a gift worth opening and playing with to those who come after me.
Watching the expression of a child as he opens up a fantastic toy is priceless. But what really warms the heart is watching as he embraces and plays with the toy long after the season of Christmas has passed.