In Robert Raines’ book, Living the Questions, he reported that in an informal worship service participants created luminaries, or sandbag candles. Each was given a paper bag and marking pencil and asked to make a list of his/her needs on one side of the bag and list of his/her gifts on the other side. The bags were then filled with sand and a candle, lighted, and placed in front of the participants in the congregational circle. One participant reported that he had a struggle deciding which side of the bag to expose to others and which to face himself. If he exposed his “needs” then he would have to sit there looking at his “gifts.” If he exposed his “gifts” then he would have to sit there looking at his “needs.” Was it harder to face his gifts with their responsibilities or his needs with their vulnerabilities?
The lesson of that child like exercise is that “we are all needy givers and gifted receivers.” The paradox of the Advent season is that we live expectantly of both needs and gifts and they can’t be separated. Another Yogi Berra aphorism –when you come to a fork in the road ( of gifts and needs) take it!! – catch the Spirit of both giving and receiving.