“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you…”  Ezekiel 36:26

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”  2 Corinthians 9:15

As with so much in the world; in Christmas time can bring a sense of confusion and befuddlement about the celebration of Christ’s birth.  What about presents and gifts; is it right to do it or is that just a commercialization of the Holy.  To Santa or not to Santa?  Is the time that I spend shopping and thinking about gifts taking away for the spirituality of the Event?

Well the word give is used 500 times in the bible. So it would seem the process of imparting a gift is not an inconsequential concept as far as God is concerned.  So it seems to me, that as in so many things, it is the intent that matters.  As well as if we go back to the whole reason for the season itself, it is to celebrate the gift of our Savior come to earth:  Jesus Christ.

Can gifts and gift giving get in the way?  Can it diminish the focus of the season?  Most assuredly.  Let’s think for a moment about two aspects of the reason for the gift; the easy and the hard.  I’ll start with the hard; the gift of obligation.  You know that type of gift.  It is the gift that we must get for someone.  We must get it; perhaps because everyone else in our social or work arena is getting the person a gift, maybe because it is the generally accepted societal norm to give this person a gift, finally it may be the guilt aspect that they have either already given, or you are certain they are going to give you a gift and will be expecting one in return.  So out you and I trudge.  We don’t want to sacrifice the money, we don’t want to exert the effort, we feel it is a waste of time to be searching for the gift.  We don’t know the person as well as perhaps the fear that our gift will be shown up by someone else’s gift.  Boy I wish we didn’t have this season that causes me to do this every year!  Maybe an exaggeration but those sort of feelings can definitely cause us to lose focus on why the season is here in the first place.

Now let’s concentrate on the easy.  I say easy, not in the sense that necessarily finding the gift is a walk in the park.  But it is the feelings that we have in the process that make something we really desire to do.  We have that special person or people.  They are so dear to us that we can’t wait to venture out to find that special something.  While we may have a budget that may restrain what we are able to do; within that constraint we are going to give as much as we can.  Effort?  What effort?  We are not thinking about the full parking lots or long checkout lines.  No, we rather we are focused on the look of joy that the receiver will have when they open the gift.  Every detail is important.  Not just the gift but also its presentation.  In the must get gift, even if it is not a lump of coal it may sure look like one from the way it is wrapped.  However, with the want to gift, the wrapping is a piece of art in and of itself, with much time spent getting each corner, each seam, just right.  Gift in return?  With the easy, want to gift, there might be some mental recognition that there might be a gift received as well.  But there is no sense of comparison, no balancing of “do you love me as much as I love you” based upon the gift.  Their very presence is present enough.

Which of those two gift intents are most representative of the gift we  received from God in Jesus Christ?  I can find no cosmic requirement that would have obligated Our Heavenly Father to give to us; His Son Jesus Christ.  Was God concerned that all the other gods were giving us gifts so He needed to at least pitch in something too?  There is just way too many ridiculously blasphemous aspects of that statement to spend any time on.  Finally, is there any sense that we, His creation, had given Him so much before, that He was obligated to give His Son to us?  Can we say Sodom and Gomorrah, Bathsheba and many, many more human examples of spiritual failure.

So it is obvious that Jesus Christ is the type of gift of Love.  Now I won’t say that it was easy.  For unfortunately, God was giving His gift to receivers who, for the most part, were not interested or believing that the gift had actually been given.  As a gift; throughout His life, Jesus was going to be ridiculed, ostracized, hated and even condemned by those he had been given to.

So what’s the most important thing about gifts this time of year?  To be receivers.  To understand that each of us has been given the most wondrous gift possible: salvation.  That we should accept this gift in the humble realization that we have done nothing to deserve this and can do nothing to repay it back to the Giver.  That the Gift was given out of Love and Grace and our right response is to receive that Love and Grace, share that Love and Grace with others and to the best of our ability; feel that Love in return to Him.

What’s a Christian to do?  Receive the Love, give in love, live a life of love to Him and to those around us.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we can get so consumed with the mechanics of gifts and giving, especially during this time of year, that we lose sight of receiving The Gift from You, which is Jesus Christ.  Pour out Your Spirit on us putting Love in our hearts that we would be overjoyed by the Grace and Generosity of Your Gift of Jesus Christ to us.  That as we go forth in this season and in all seasons to come in Love and Praise for Your Most Holy Name.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen