Receiving and Giving Gifts (Issue 2.12)


Originally Written for 12/13/09

Christmas is a time that is too often spent trying to find the perfect gift for that special person, or fretting over whether the one we’ve found is the right one.  We give because of our love, and because God gave to us.

But I was reminded today that the real message of Christmas is not that we give, but that we can receive the greatest gift of all.  It is a reminder that we are finite and, ultimately, there is nothing we can give that will ever get us into Heaven.  Christmas is a reminder of how essential it is for us receive.

Read this quote I came across earlier:

“Rabbi Michael Goldber, in his book Jews and Christians, says that as a Jew he is impressed in reading Matthew’s account of the nativity by how utterly passive the actors are.  As a Jew, he answers to the story of the Exodus, a story  of how God liberated the chosen people through the enlistment and prodding of people like Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.  But the Christmas story implies that what God wants to do for us is so strange, so beyond the bounds of human effort and striving, that God must resort to utterly unnatural, supernatural means.  It tells of an unimaginable gift from a stranger, a God whom we hardly even know.”

When I read that it caused me to pause and reflect – in fact, I’ve been reflecting on it for quite some time.

Christmas, like worship, all to often focuses on what we should do – what we have to offer (even our songs this morning spoke of this – bringing an “offering”).  Yet the truth about Christmas (and of worship) is that our job is to respond to what God has already done.  I’m not suggesting at all that we shouldn’t give gifts to others or to Christ, but we must constantly remember that the reason we give is as a response to what we have received.  John writes, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son…”  (1 John 4:10)  Paul writes, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).

Our job is to respond to that love.  The first step in our response is to receive.

Let’s reflect a little over the coming days on how well we receive the gift God has sent us.

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