Gift giving is more complicated than simply handing over a nicely wrapped present. In fact, most of our gifts are not actual gifts.
I am not slamming the present exchange we do at Christmas. We solidify and honor our family ties with the exchange of presents. We give our children things they need and want, though the fact that Santa Claus keeps a list of who is naughty and nice, ties behavior to “gift” giving. And honestly, who doesn’t love watching
The three wise men presented Jesus with gold, frankincense, and
A gift, then, is given without thought to reciprocity. How rare the gifts then we receive from one another. Or perhaps how rare that we accept a gift. After all, when someone surprises me with a true gift, I feel uncomfortable until I reciprocate. To receive without evening the score feels vulnerable unless one is totally self-absorbed or entitled.
The joke in most Christian universities is that the answer to every question asked in any class is Jesus. When I asked my students one day what God’s biggest gift to them was, they all spouted off the ‘right’ answer. Obviously Jesus is God’s biggest gift to them. Some looked affronted when I shook my head. Jesus isn’t the biggest gift you each have received from God I told them. Silence fell over the class.
In all honesty, I felt grieved that the answer didn’t pop right to their minds. When I informed them that God’s greatest gift to them was actually themselves, some of my students looked puzzled and others frowned in stern disagreement. At a Christian university, the doctrine police are ever on
Each of you would not need Jesus if you did not first have yourselves I argued. God breathed life into Adam, giving him everything he could want including an all-access pass to God Himself. But I would argue that Adam did not receive that gift. After all, he did not eat of the tree of life when he had the chance. And he did have that choice, even before Eve came onto the scene. Maybe he didn’t want to live, much less forever.
So too, God has given each of us the breath of life, and each of us must accept that gift or spend our time running from it. Some gifts are heavy to bear, though fortunately, we aren’t meant to shoulder our lives alone. The suicide rates alone speak of our rejection of this weighty gift. If we think of our lives as a burden, then we do not understand the nature of the gift. The fascination various cultures have with death speaks to our rejection of life. In fact, much of our entertainment is a celebration or perhaps a better word, a preoccupation with death.
But Jesus’ birth sheds whole new light on what eating of the tree of life entails. We forfeited our lives by eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We are born, now, without that spiritual life or access to God having chosen death instead. So God, His first gift to us so rejected, then gives us Himself as a gift.
This is where religion messes it all up. We are so in love with death and judgment, we turn Christianity into a system of rules. Religion is obsessed with cleaning up, hiding the messes that we are. In fact, religion tells the same lie the devil did in the garden. If you study your religion really well and learn the right answers (eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) then you will be like God.
We forget the gift. We are already made in God’s image. God gave you to yourself without any strings. You can do with yourself what you want. But here is the great irony or perhaps the great beauty of the kingdom. Aman finds a treasure in a field. He sells all he has to buy that field. He wants the gift of that treasure so badly he will give all for it.
You are that treasure. You are the gift that God desires so much that He first gave it to you unconditionally and then provided a way for you to give it back with only a yes. Yes, I accept this life you have called
Everyone is looking for a catch. Where is the condition? God gave you that heart that beats in your chest without expectation. Only hope. He will not manipulate you through fear or force. God only accepts gifts. Religion sets up exchange; this act of repentance for these sins. But God knows how to give and He knows how to receive. He will wait for you without judgment. But know this. You are the gift God desires with all His majestic, generous, all-loving heart.