The Gift of Life

American_Red_Cross_poster

Artwork at the American Red Cross Blood Donation Center in Durham, North Carolina.

Yesterday, I gave the gift of life to three people. I gave blood at my local blood bank.

Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, was my childhood hero. For reasons I cannot really explain, the story of her life touched me even more than the stories of Amelia Earhart, Annie Oakley, and Florence Nightingale—all of whose lives and contributions to society fascinated me.

Despite my “hero worship” of Clara as a child, as an adult you couldn’t pay me to give blood to the American Red Cross.

No, I wasn’t scared. No, I wasn’t limited for health reasons. I was just plain selfish.

Nobody was getting my blood. What if one of my family members needed it? What if I needed it? Someone else could give blood. I was keeping mine, thank you very much.

Ten years ago, I worked at a company that brought the Blood Mobile right to the main lobby of our building. One particular co-worker badgered me to give blood every time. She tsk-tsk’d me ‘til the cows came home. I turned a deaf ear. Fanatic, I thought.

During my employment there, my Dad underwent emergency heart surgery. A man who lived an active and healthy lifestyle needed a quadruple bypass. (That’s genetics and the nature of unseen things for you.)

The operation was a success. My Mom, two sisters, and I thanked the good Lord; then after a long day of waiting, we went to get something to eat. We returned to a hospital floor bustling in barely concealed panic.

Stat this. Code that. And tense voices repeatedly asking, “Is the blood here yet?”

Someone’s loved one was in distress, I remember thinking as I began to pray for that unknown person and family.

Turns out, we were the family and my Dad was the person.

There was no time to draw family members’ blood. (How foolish of me to have thought that was even possible or practical!) I was keeping my blood, thank you very much, when all I wanted to do was give it.

Multiple blood transfusions, a platelet transfusion, and a second in-the-wee-hours-of-the-morning visit to the operating table rounded out a very long day, the spiritual implications and observations of which were life-changing for me. My father fully recovered, and the co-mingled blood of those who willingly gave now pumps through his veins.

Not long afterward, I showed up in my company’s lobby, where a local American Red Cross phlebotomist drew my blood for the very first time. I now give blood as regularly as I am able. I give because someone gave my father’s life back to me.

As I was donating my blood yesterday, it occurred to me that I was giving my gift because of what I had received first. There’s not much nobility or charity in that. I thought about Jesus, whose birthday we celebrate as Advent draws to a close this evening and the Christmas season officially begins. I thought of how Jesus, the Son of God, entered into humanity–a baby in the flesh, perfect and incarnate. I thought of His equally perfect life of humility, teaching, and self-sacrifice. I thought of how His body was broken and His blood was spilled out as He hung on a cross of wood—not just to save three or four lives, but to save the whole world. He lovingly and obediently did this because a sinless sacrifice was needed to atone for our sins.[1]  That is why He came, that it what He lived for, and that is why He died. But the story doesn’t end there! He conquered the grave and is back in heaven—the very place He left to bring about that first Christmas day. Through His death we are forgiven, and through His resurrection we are justified and made righteous before a holy God who can accept nothing less.

I may have saved three lives yesterday, but the Child in the manger saved me eternally through the ultimate gift–His very life. By faith, His gift of life has the power to save you, too.

Duke_Chapel_nativity_2013

God the Father looked down as God the Son was made flesh by God the Holy Spirit. One God now and forever. Amen. (Duke Chapel nativity; Durham, NC)

Merry Christmas to you and yours.


[1] John 3:16Romans 6:23

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