Advent 12: Saint John looks at love and gifts.

We found Saint John of the Mall sitting in front of the gift wrapping store. It’s not really a buying and selling store. That store closed. The space is used during December for a non-profit to raise funds by wrapping gifts for contributions.

It was early. No one was around. We sat next to John and looked through the window at the wastepaper baskets full of scraps.

“It was crazy busy in there yesterday,” John said. “I sat here all day watching people carry stuff in, get it wrapped, and carry it out. Most people were looking intense or distracted. Ready to be done or ready to keep going. Almost no one smiled.”

“Shopping is pretty intense,” Nancy said. “You want to get the thing that matches what the person wants.”

“Which is why we went to gift cards and cash,” I said.

John leaned forward and looked at us both. “I think that there must be a conversation of some sort that says, ‘If you buy me that gift, I’ll know that you love me.’”

We both shook our heads.

“Not you two,” John said. “Or your kids. But isn’t it possible that something close to that happens in lots of houses, lots of relationships?”

He stood up. We started walking. “Once, Jesus was visiting friends in a small town. He wasn’t from there, but he’d been at a wedding there. As we walked down the street, a couple of servants waved at him. They knew, though many people didn’t, that Jesus was behind the water turning into wine at that wedding.

“A wealthy man came from Jesus’ new hometown, a few miles away. He wanted Jesus to come and heal his son, who was dying.

“Jesus said, ‘people are always asking for wonders before they believe.’”

I smiled. “That’s a lot like ‘if you buy me this gift, I’ll know that you love me.’”

John nodded. “What was so powerful was that the man didn’t argue about the characterization. He simply said, ‘Sir, come down before my child dies.’ And Jesus said, ‘Go, your son will live.’ The man went. The son lived.”

peaceI asked the question that was in both of our hearts. “But what about all the people since then who have made that same request without the same result?”

Saint John looked at us. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such compassion in someone’s eyes. And he waited for awhile.

“I know that’s not a theoretical question,” he finally said. “And I know this. You didn’t decide love depended on receiving the particular gift.”

He walked on and left us to sit. Remembering the healing that hadn’t happened. And the love we have still known.


From a story in John 4:43-54.

2 thoughts on “Advent 12: Saint John looks at love and gifts.

  1. Jen

    Thank you for this post, Jon. I have been grieving the loss of my little brother for the last nine months. And for the seven months before as he battled an aggressive form of lymphoma. It was the first time in my 35 years as a Christian that I’ve actually had a crisis of faith. To be honest, I am still struggling with the idea of prayer. I continue to pray, because I know it enhances my relationship with God. More than ever, I simply asked for His will to be done.


    1. Jon Swanson

      Thank you Jen, and I’m so sorry for your loss.

      I struggle with the idea of prayer all the time. Because it’s the idea of prayer, or better, the ideas we have about prayer, that create challenges for us. Your last two sentances are powerful. Conversation as relationship, conversation as release of our will to his.

      And i will talk with God about you.

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