Our world has changed a lot in the past couple of years, some of it has been good. Some change has served to give us an appreciation for what once was and might never be again. But one thing stayed the same. There is a shift in the atmosphere around this time of year. When December rolls around , the world adjusts. I watch as lines get longer, traffic congests around the malls, and stores open around the clock. It seems the Christmas season is about gift giving more than anything else. On the surface that appears to be a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting gifts; but I find myself wondering when gift-giving became so stressful. I find myself wondering what is missing.
A friend of my remarked to me, “I really don’t like it when someone unexpected gives me a gift because then I feel like I have to go get them one too; and if I don’t have time, then I just feel guilty.” I have to admit that I used to feel the same way. Gift-giving wasn’t about giving someone a gift but about an even-exchange of material goods. I realize now that even-exchanges are definitely not a reflection of our Lord’s extravagance to us. Even as our world changed around us, the Lord remained the same. His love never fails.
When I think of all that He has given me, I am so thankful that Jesus does not expect an even-exchange between us. When I gave Him weakness, He gave me strength. When I gave Him doubts, He gave me faith. When I gave Him brokenness, He gave me healing. When I gave Him mistakes, He gave me mercy. Even when I gave Him nothing, He gave me love.
For many years I was like my friend -I didn’t want to accept an undeserved gift. I wanted to rely on myself, believe in what I could see, lap my own wounds and not make mistakes. I did not need a gift I couldn’t repay. Giving, for me, was a form of exchange between people. What I didn’t realize until I met Jesus was that I was missing the “gift” in my giving because it was an obligation, not an act of love.
Maybe gift-giving is not about the gift at all, but the giver. The perfect gift can’t be found in a store, on a shelf or in a box. The perfect gift cannot even be given, it can only be received. And maybe that is our problem – we don’t want to receive unless we have something to give. In our world today, the emphasis is on gift “exchanges.” In God’s kingdom, however, He will take our meager “gifts” and give us something extraordinary. He will even take nothing and still give us a gift that takes our breath away –the gift of grace and truth in Jesus Christ.
So, I am going to say something quite contrary to the world’s Christmas message. Don’t think about what you are going to give, but what you have received. There is only one perfect gift and it has already been given.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
At Christmas give to GIVE, not exchange. Together, let’s put love back into Christmas. God “gave” because He “loved.” Who can you love at Christmas?
For the law was given through Moses;
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17