“Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.” Lk. 21:28

Today would have been my grandmother’s 100th birthday. Even though she passed away almost 14 years ago, she was a living witness to the gratuitous love of God: love that cannot be earned, deserved, or ever fully reciprocated. She was born (and also died) right around Christmas so our missing her is particularly acute this time of year.

Into her eighties, she stayed up on trends in order to get the perfect gifts for us. The “gal” at Nordstrom tipped her off to cropped pants coming back into style, and they were wrapped under her Christmas tree that year for us. Before the clothes were even out of the box she would begin saying “I kept the tag, I can take them back.” Not only did she give us everything we could ever imagine, but she was willing to take it all back if it wasn’t what we truly wanted.

This year my goddaughter wanted an American Girl doll more than anything else. These life-like dolls (and their corresponding accessories) cost a small fortune.  In addition to her friendship with the sales clerk at Nordstrom, my grandmother also subscribed to the mail-order catalog for these coveted dolls. She had kept us well stocked in miniature ice skates and doll-sized tea sandwiches. Immediately I knew that God was inviting me not to “hoard” all of these treasures for my own daughter but to share them more widely.

Today’s readings about the birth and naming of John depict him as a messenger who comes from the people of Israel and prepares the way for the Messiah. At one time, I considered taking my grandparents’ name, claiming them even more as the people who shaped me. Although I ultimately decided against it there is no doubt in my mind that I belong to them.

My goddaughter may not be my own daughter, but I know clearly that we belong to each other. When she opened her doll this week, the pure joy on her face was all the confirmation I needed that God (and my grandparents) have indeed given me more than I could ever ask for. 

On my grandmother’s 100th birthday, I am looking ahead to the fruitfulness and joy that continues to spring forth from her life. That’s a present that doesn’t need a gift receipt or a 90-day return policy. 

Jen Coito