This is the season when there is a mad scramble to rush from store to store to find appropriate gifts for those we wish to remember. Need I point out that for the business world this is the season of the year on which much of their fortunes hang to end in the black? For them, it’s all about money.
I’m not really sure just how we got to this point. If it was taken from the idea that the wise men brought “their treasures…and presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.” But we should take note that those gifts were offered to Jesus, not to one another. And we should note the spirit in which they were offered…“they fell down and worshipped.” It was an awesome scene! It reflects the true spirit of the very first Christmas. It should say something to us…two thousand years later.
I guess there is no denying that all of us enjoy receiving gifts. Christmas morning, when families gather round to exchange gifts is, especially for children, an exciting time. I can well remember the excitement I felt as a boy when this moment came. It followed our traditional Christmas Eve journey to midnight mass. My thoughts were not so much on church, but the presents that would follow.
“Gift.” Think for a moment about that key word. “His indescribable gift!” That whole phrase centers on that one word. It’s the Greek word “dorea.” What it indicates is a free gift, stressing its gratuitous character…a word used in the New Testament only of a spiritual or supernatural gift such as “the gift of the Holy Spirit,” or the “gift” of Christ Himself, or the gifts of grace and salvation.
Unfortunately, much of the gift-giving today has little or no spiritual touch to it. Siblings can really take note of what is given to each one and whether it reflects equality…“You got more than I did!” So parents have to beware of falling into that trap! It calls for evenhandedness!
It isn’t as though we adults are totally free of that mentality. “Let’s see, last year Suzy gave me this and that which probably cost about x dollars, so I need to get her something equivalent this year.” It has become so mundane and crass. What’s happened to the spirit of that word?
Come to think about it, the wise men in offering their gifts to the Christ child received nothing in return…only the joy of giving. It was all a part of their worship of the Child Jesus.
I don’t mean to come across as just another Scrooge. Not at all! But, I have to say that my training and experience have opened my eyes to the fact that not everybody in this world lives like Americans! I can’t help but be somewhat disturbed in conscience when I observe that our gift-giving often becomes such a big challenge simply because we all too often give gifts to those who really need little or nothing. So we struggle through the shopping dilemma trying to figure out what on earth can I get this person. At the same time, how can I forget seeing images of people in the slums ofIndiadigging though piles of garbage just to get something to eat for that day? Or to see the old people inJerusalemstanding in public places with hands outstretched hoping that the passersby will drop a few coins in their hands so that they can at least buy a morsel of bread. We could go on to talk about those inDarfur, where countless thousands are dying of starvation. We can even see many places in our own country where children are starving and people are homeless. Where is their Christmas? It’s humbling, to say the least.
I can only speak for myself. To be honest, I find a deeper and deeper craving to bring back the spiritual, to celebrate Christmas in the true spirit of what was celebrated two thousand years ago. Yes, we can still celebrate in giving gifts. But can we do it in the true spirit of the word…gift? No longer the mathematical quotient of did I get as much as I gave? No, but rather the simple joy of honoring and blessing others by what we can give without even thinking about what we might receive in return.
THINK…of the “gift” God so freely gave us. It was surely not measured in terms of what He might expect in return. He freely gave His son. And in doing so, He, as the Scripture says, “spared not His own Son.” He held nothing back. The BEST was not too much to give to us undeserving sinners! Oh, never has the world seen gift-giving like that! No wonder Paul fairly SHOUTS IT as he pens those words…“THANKS BE TO GOD FOR HIS INDESCRIBABLE GIFT!! It simply means that for Paul, there was not any vocabulary adequate to express the enormity, the preciousness, the inestimable value, the unutterable beauty to the Gift God gave us!
Yes, enjoy your family get-togethers! Enjoy the gifts that God has blessed you with that will fill your tables on Christmas Day! Yes, even enjoy the pleasure of blessing others with the gifts you purchased to share! But remember that first word, too…THANKS! With all the turmoil and heartache in our world, we still have so much to be thankful for. As we celebrate another Christmas, let’s go back once more and catch the spirit of that first Christmas and let our hearts rise in worship and adoration to the Christ, and let our gift giving be in the spirit of those who were the first gift givers. Come, let us worship the King!
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
(Thank you to Pastor Paul Sundell, IMF Coordinator of Missions Field Services, for this wonderful devotion.)