White Elephant Jesus?

Posted: December 10, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Ah, Christmas, it is that time of year when people try their best to guilt other people into doing things they don’t want to do. I’m not trying to make a value judgement, but you know it’s a simple statement of truth. Lots of people halfheartedly throw their change to the bell ringers, feeling like maybe that will prove to everyone what a good person they are. While all the while, inside, they feel the sting of inadequacy. They feel the truth that they don’t love people like they should, that so much of the “good” they do is out of obligation and not springing from the goodness within.

Don’t think I am a Scrooge, but white elephant gift exchanges are not my most favorite of holiday activities. The basic idea is that you buy a gift out of obligation to attend the party or to participate, not knowing who will get it. Then you throw it in the pot. People steal from others, take a risk to open or not to open, so it is really the entertainment value of it that is the thing. These can be times of laughter and fun. So, in that sense, I get it. But, I think things like white elephant gift exchanges have a tendency to allow our culture to become unaccustomed to understanding the true nature of gift giving. In most gift exchanges, the fundamental elements of gift giving are gone.

Whenever I had a job, no husband, and disposable income (maybe one or two years of my life), I really enjoyed giving. (Not that I don’t enjoy it now, but it is a little more complicated at this stage of life.) At that time, there were some kids I especially loved and I would give them gifts just because I wanted to see their smiles. I would enjoy putting lots of thought into something that was just right for the individual I was shopping for. The instant the person opened the gift, I knew whether or not I “scored.” The feeling of getting the perfect gift was intoxicating to me. It is always the most fun when you get something for someone and they were not expecting any gifts at all. One time, one of the kids I liked to buy gifts for said he felt bad that he didn’t get me anything in return. He was surprised to find that I actually liked it better when the gift was not reciprocated. That’s what makes it truly a gift.

I heard a saying that I have come to believe to be true. “A true gift is for the receiver, not the giver.” I know this sounds obvious, but, have you ever gotten a gift out of desperation or re-gifted just to be sure you had the obligatory gift for the custom of the event, not because you truly wanted to give? That’s the difference between a mere present and a true gift. A true gift will be about the other person’s joy, and not to make the giver look good or to get something in return. It does not expect to be reciprocated, but enjoyed, like a grandmother doting on her grandchildren. Nothing brings her more joy or satisfaction than giving a gift that the children could never repay. A true gift is given to someone who knows the person well enough to know the need of the particular individual. It is specific and relevant to the life of the receiver. It speaks of love.

Jesus Christ, the precious man of perfection, was given as a true gift. God does not merely exchange gifts, he loves to give to the spiritually bankrupt who could never possibly repay. When we feel bad for not having anything to give back, he wishes we would understand the fact that he just wants us to enjoy the gift, no strings attached. He did not just give his son to throw in the pot of humanity as though he did not know you by name. No, the gifts God gives have names attached to them. And they are chosen according to our individual needs. Beyond the incredible gift of salvation, he also gifts us with his presence, his voice, his protection, his provision, divinely appointed relationships, healing, miracles, abilities, and more. This Christmas, I hope you can truly learn to receive from him, something lasting, something surprising, something you could never repay. Then give to others from the overflow of joy and love that springs from a happy heart. Merry Christmas!


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