This is the largest gift-giving time of the year. Now that the gifts have been exchanged might be a time to examine giving, and receiving gifts. Here is my take on it:
A Gift Freely Given
Daniel R. Vertrees
In Christianity, we hear of the “Gift Freely Given” which is usually a description of God’s Grace: Salvation freely given to humanity through Jesus Christ. In our usual human way, we contaminate the gift. During the Christmas Season, we are called to celebrate the gift freely given, and we do through our traditions of gift giving. Ahh, but there is the human rub.
“I gave you that gift and if you don’t use it right I can take it back.” Variations on that threat are common whenever a gift is given. We do not give gifts freely – they have a price, a string or two, an obligation attached. Even something as mundane as Christmas Cards, about as human a concoction as is possible to splice onto a holy time, are given with strings.
“Did we get a Christmas card this year from George, honey?”
“No. We most certainly did not.”
“Well cross him off the list then for next year.”
Even in something as meaningless, in the overall scope of creation, as a Christmas card is laden with costs. It is not a gift freely given.
When a gift is FREELY given, it becomes the possession of recipient. It is theirs to do with, as they will. If they want to grind it up into paste, it is theirs. It may not be in keeping with your expectations, you might mourn the loss, you might be angry, but the reality is that if it is freely given, then you can have no say in how the person uses the gift, nor should you want to.
A gift that comes with conditions is a loan. It is the recipient’s to use, but under your conditions. It is a gift that is never truly theirs.
I was once in conversation with the Marc Andrus who was Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, and now serves as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Francisco. I was asking the old concern of why we send people to mission out of our area when there are so many in need close by. He explained that when you do something for people far from you there is no bond of obligation formed. Bond of obligation – “well I helped them now why are they not helping (me, you, others). Bond of obligation – a condition placed on a gift given.
I am hard pressed to remember receiving (or giving I suppose) a single gift that did not have an implied bond of obligation, a string, a condition attached. God’s gift freely given was given without strings, the sole purpose was to provide salvation and, if there can be said to be a bond, it was a bond of love, support, reconciliation, and life. His was a gift freely given full of hope, opportunity, love, commitment, and support FROM God to us. His gift freely given, combined with the Freedom of Will to do with that gift what you will, is God’s model of a gift.
Just once this year, try to provide a gift freely given to a friend or loved one, or stranger for that matter. See how you respond to the receipt and use of the gift. Then ask yourself – are we capable of the gift freely given?