It may be better to give than to receive on Christmas Day.
Pastor Martin Yabroff thinks that might have something to do with how hard it can be to receive.
The St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church celebrant focused his Sunday holiday service on how having open ears, open hearts and an openness to God’s love can allow his flock to best receive their gifts.
“We are, in Christmas, receiving a gift,” Yabroff preached during his 10 a.m. service. “It brings good news and great joy for all,” he added, quoting the excerpt of the Gospel of Luke that had been earlier read aloud by 95-year-old Rev. Edward Sterling.
Yabroff, 60, advised the 70 or so members of his flock present at the Tacoma church to trust their faith, to allow for change and growth, and to practice opening their hands — it’s hard to accept gifts while baring clenched fists.
He said afterward that accepting such gifts in life can be a challenge for anyone, which is why he chose to focus on that for the holiday.
“As a pastor as well as in my life, it can be difficult to receive,” Yabroff said.
For parishioner Noel Shillito, it was time to share his birthday for the 67th time.
Such are the perils of being born on Christmas.
“I would have had a normal name, but my mom was not original,” Shillito said. “Maybe she was.”
But for about 30 of those years, he’s gone to St. Andrew’s, as he did for the Christmas Day service.
“When you’re in community with your fellow man, I find it uplifting. It’s a chance to think about being a better person,” he said. “It’s a wonderful place to gather yourself.”
Shillito opened presents first, then came to the service — which didn’t hurt his feelings because he likes the organ music that comes with the longer and later event.
The Yabroffs were waiting for the service to end before opening all of their gifts, son-in-law-to-be Aaron Glas said. They cheated and opened one each Christmas Eve, though.
“Today’s service is a celebration,” said Glas, 38, who is engaged to Yabroff’s daughter Sarah, one that highlights “our guide in life of taking care of others and taking care of ourselves.”
As for Yabroff, even those who aren’t Episcopalian, or Christian, or even religious would be served well by graciously accepting gifts into their lives, he said.
“What they can take is that we believe that the central gift for living is to love, and to be loved,” he said. “We need to be able to share that love.”