For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level ground, so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God. The woods and every fragrant tree have shaded Israel at God’s command. For God will lead Israel with joy, in the light of his glory, with the mercy and righteousness that come from him. —Baruch 5:7–9
Last week we heard Jeremiah compare God to a potter. We know from the gospels that Jesus worked with his foster father, who was a carpenter (or a stonemason). St. Francis advised his brothers to work with their hands as a way of staying connected to the humble, simple things of the earth. Many of our Christmas traditions pull us into this kind of tactile creativity. It might be baking or making decorations or writing cards to distant friends and family. In a world that too often relies on mass-produced, cheaply made commodities, handmade treasures still stand out.
The prophet Baruch reminds us that all of creation, including but not limited to human beings, has come from the creative hand of God. In using our hands creatively, we share in the creative impulse of God. We put more of ourselves into the work of our hands and that becomes an important part of the special gifts we give and the meals we prepare. These things we make don’t need to be either elaborate or impressive. If we worry too much about making an impression, we lose the simplicity and the beauty of the gesture. We allow our anxieties and our pride to rob us of the simple joy of making and giving. We lose that connection with the God who created us and breathes life into us each and every day.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
As you take time to breathe deeply in prayer today, look with appreciation at your hands and reflect on the many things they do—working, playing, loving, creating. Let the phrase “I am God’s work of art” run through your mind as you breathe. It comes from this passage in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:8–10)
A SIMPLE GIFT
A minimalism movement has arisen in response to an increasingly complex technological society and the excesses of our consumption-driven culture. One manifestation of this is a renewed interest in pen-and-paper planning and journaling. People are taking time away from their phones and tablets and rediscovering the tactile experience of writing by hand. Working by hand can slow us down and give us a greater appreciation for the task we’re doing. You might want to write at least some of your Christmas cards by hand this year, even if it’s just a short note. Or you might want to write out your Christmas shopping list, carefully pairing each person with an appropriate gift.