Christmas article for 2016
Christmas is the time for presents, of giving and receiving. Children, especially, think that’s actually the definition of Christmas! We may fully expect that our spouses, family and friends give us something at this time of year. But what about other people, unexpectedly?
What if our neighbour, who we hardly know, gives us a lovely Christmas hamper? What if an acquaintance gifts us a really expensive item that they know we need? What if a perfect stranger in the supermarket queue offers us the few dollars that we are short?
Isn’t our immediate reaction to want to refuse the kindness, or to return the favour?
We don’t like feeling in someone’s debt. We don’t want “charity”.
It is actually really hard to receive something we feel we don’t deserve or that we can’t repay; something from someone we, perhaps, don’t like or thought didn’t like us.
Receiving undeserved kindness is very humbling. It hurts our pride and self-reliance.
There even seems to be a subtle power play in giving and receiving. The giver has the advantage over the receiver, and the gift places an obligation on the receiver – even if it is only to be nice or to say thank you. It is hard to maintain a grudge or dislike against someone who has given you something undeserved.
It may be more blessed to give than to receive, as the Bible says, but it is also more powerful.
I know a woman who is very difficult to give to. Even birthday gifts are discouraged. She refuses help with a heavy suitcase or any small kindness. It made me realise that it is very hard to show love to someone who refuses to accept a gift. Their pride becomes a blockage to intimacy. Unless someone allows us to hold that slight position of power sometimes, we will never be close. True love knows how to give, but also how to accept a gift.
The same is true in our relationship with God. God offers us undeserved kindness, which the Bible calls grace, in having paid the price for our sin by the death of His Son, Jesus, on the cross. It is a very humbling thing to acknowledge that we need it, that we could never pay or repay it, and that it places us under an obligation towards God to express our gratitude towards Him in the way we live the rest of our lives.
Our pride is what so often comes between us and the very rescue and love we are looking for.
So this Christmas as you choose and wrap gifts for those you love, consider how much joy it gives you to find the right present and to see the surprise and pleasure on the face of its recipient; and consider what enormous pleasure and satisfaction it gives God to offer you His gift of exactly what you need and may not know you’ve always wanted – His eternal life.