On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 128: Family Holidays (1/8/17)

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 RSV)

Parenting is one of the truly more difficult tasks asked of families. That task ought to include not only guidance in teaching children how to pray, how to read the Holy Scriptures, how to participate in the Divine Liturgy, how to receive Holy Communion – but parenting also includes training in the commandments of God, and in proper behavior both in church and outside of it.

Perhaps unknowingly, parents have often taught their children a rather selfish lesson that has extended to much of the lives of those who have grown up with this teaching. Parents have taught their children that birthdays and holidays are occasions for them to expect to receive gifts. This follows the very customs and bad habits that the world has fallen into.

Birthdays and holidays should be occasions to increase the knowledge of God’s ways, awakening thankfulness for God’s mercy and love for the gift of another year. Yet such occasions are turned into times of self-pleasing and self-gratification. The children have been kept by the hand of God every moment of their lives. How many parents and relatives think of a birthday as a day to say “Thank you” to God for His great mercy and lovingkindess? In fact, is God ever remembered on a child’s birthday?

But it is not only birthdays that are served in the world’s way of self-gratification. The Feast of the Nativity (Christmas) is surely a day that is not about the gifts we receive from each other, but about the great Gift that God has given us.

Some ideas: make a birthday a happy day for a child, but consider making it also a pleasant day for someone in need. Perhaps the day can become a day of service at a local food bank or soup kitchen. Perhaps the gift the child would receive might go to a child in the hospital. Let the day not pass without a prayer of thanksgiving to God. Find a way to make a gift to God that remembers one’s birthday, rather than all gifts to be received by the one whose anniversary of birth it is.

The most memorable Christmas Day I have ever had? Following Divine Liturgy for the Feast, we traveled close to 50 miles to the downtown Orthodox parish where a feast day dinner was being provided for the city poor and hungry. Like the magi of old, we carried with us gloves, hats, coats and sox as gifts for those in need of them. We offered gifts to the people of God in thanksgiving for the gift of His only-begotten Son.

This weekly series of brief thoughts on stewardship and Orthodox life is brought to you by your Diocesan Stewardship Commission.

Mark Your Calendar Now for the 2nd annual Stewardship Retreat will be held September 22-24, 2017.

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