Tuesday, December 19, 2023

The Gift Is the Giver

Have you noticed how hard it is to come up with the perfect Christmas gift for someone you love? In my opinion, there is one and only one requirement when it comes to gift giving. The gift must reflect who the receiver of the gift is. It's far better to give something inexpensive yet deeply personal than something expensive that fails to acknowledge what is important to the recipient. 

I remember a time in Basel when Becky gave me one of the best Christmas presents I ever got. Unbeknownst to me, while I was in the library researching my dissertation topic, she was spending hours at our little Baptist church practicing the piano. One day she said to me, "Honey, for your Christmas present this year we're going to have to walk over to church." During the 10-minute walk there I was wracking my brain. "What on earth was she going to give me?" But everything was soon clear to me. She sat down at the piano and played all 3 movements of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata -- the dreamy first movement, the lively second movement, and even the difficult and tempestuous third movement. Her performance was flawless. As you can imagine, I was deeply moved, as everyone knows I am a huge Classical Music lover. It was profoundly inspiring that she had thought about giving to me such a considerate and thoughtful gift. To this day I get goosebumps when I think about it.

What gift has God given us at Christmas? The truth is, he hasn't given us a gift at all. The gift is the Giver. God did not give us a gift detached from himself. He gave himself to us -- to be with us, for us, in us, behind us, before us, beneath us. So the way to enjoy the gifts of eternal life, forgiveness of sins, new life, etc. is to enjoy the Giver. Are you lonely this Christmas season? This God can be with you to comfort you in your loneliness. Are you struggling with some sin? This God can be for you in Jesus Christ who died for you. Are you desperate for change? This God can be in you, to change you and make you pure within. Do you need guidance? This God can be before you, as a lamp for your feet.

The gift is the Giver.

"Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift," writes Paul in 2 Cor. 9:15. In fact, so indescribable is this gift that translators struggle to know how to render Paul's word here:

NIV: "indescribable gift"

NLT: "this gift too wonderful for words"

ESV: inexpressible gift"

ERV: "unspeakable gift"

GNT: "priceless gift"

Weymouth: "unspeakably precious gift"

Dear Lord Jesus,

I'd just like to say thanks for the many gifts you've given me this year. They have made a huge difference in my life. But most of all, I'd like to thank you for giving me yourself. I couldn't live a day without you. 

Love always,