A few days ago, I was reading the story of Hannah and her deep desire for a son despite her age. The promise she makes to God is striking. Most unexpectedly she conceives and gives birth to a son. In keeping with her promise, she surrenders her son to God, to be raised in the Temple. It is hard to imagine how she was able to do this, other than with a spirit of deep joy and trust.
In the story of Mary there are some parallels and differences. Mary was young, not yet married, and discovered she was pregnant – a very unexpected event. She is affirmed as having been chosen and sings of the hope that this baby will bring. In his words of blessing, Simeon foretells of the pain that this baby will bring to Mary and that the child will not be hers alone. We see this become real in the ministry of Jesus and graphically when she surrenders her son at the foot of the cross.
Both these women release their personal hopes and plans in trust and hope to God. It is this release that defines what it means to give and let go. To surrender is to allow the decisions and choices of another to take priority. This is generosity — handing over, and letting go.
We are emerging from lockdowns, border closures and uncertainty into the season of Christmas. This is the season of giving thanks for the gift of Jesus and a time of connecting with families, friends and church community. We demonstrate what we understand and how we value others in the gifts we bring and give. These carefully chosen items are surrendered to others — with the receivers having the gracious freedom to use them as they choose.
This is the heart of gift giving; a gracious handing over to another of something we decide can and will be for their benefit. In giving through GMP to our partners we seek to do the same. With them we plan what can be done. We train and equip, guide and anticipate what is needed for the gifts to become transformative in their setting.
Who benefits from the gifts? It is people and communities in need. Giving through the COCOA Christmas Offering is one way of affirming the generosity of God to us and our desire to see the world changed for the better.
I hope you can join with me in being part of bringing hope this Christmas.
John Gilmore Executive Officer