Philippians 3:13,14 – Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (KJV)
There is a game or custom in some families, often used at Christmas parties, in which numbers are randomly dispensed to each person, following which the person with the lowest number is called upon, and invited to open a gift with the corresponding number. The next person when opening a gift has the choice of keeping the gift or exchanging it with that of the first one. Each person in succession can either keep their gift or exchange it for one belonging to someone else who has already opened one.
The thing is that the person with whom the gift is exchanged has no say in the matter, and so some end up getting exactly what they want, while others must accept the one with which they have been left. While one would like to think that everyone would be pleased to have received a gift, it is not always so, especially when what was held in the palm of one's hand was what one had always been wanted — only then to be lost, taken by someone else.
Sometimes the gift received is used, useless, broken or bawdy. We wonder why anyone would give it and why it was we who received it, and sometimes our responses are less favourable than what they would normally be.
Life is somewhat like this custom. Each new day is a gift to be opened. Sometimes we get exactly what we want; other times, what we need. Sometimes the gift is one we would rather not have been given; sometimes we want the life others have been given, and sometimes, when we don't want to deal with what's been given us, we pass the responsibility on to someone else — we trade the gift, as it were.
Sometimes it's not possible to see it as a gift at all, and we question Why? or Why me?
It is at this time, perhaps more than ever, that we accept and utilize God's gift of choice to us — not choice in what we are given, but in how we may choose to respond to what we are given. We have the choice in times of tragedy to accept and allow the help, love and comfort of others, and the choice to share with others in our times of triumph.
Prayer: As we begin a new year, and open the gift of each new day, may we look a little closer at how You are working within our everyday lives, and use our gift of choice in response to the gift we've been given. May we put behind us any prejudices, grudges, contempts or envies, and instead focus on reaching for what is ahead: the high calling of God. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.