I can remember past Christmas Eves, staying up late with my spouse, and excitedly preparing the presents for our children to find on Christmas morning. There were presents from Mom and Dad, but also the secret ones that would be left by Santa. Of course, we knew they were all from us, but our children would still see the magical make-believe of the jolly fat guy in red. I can recall always being a little jealous of that guy. I mean, he got to receive all the glory without doing any of the work! I was the one scouring store shelves for the precious sought after gift that year, yet this invisible man of our imaginations got all the credit! I remember putting a lot of thought into which present I’d let Santa put his name on, and more importantly, which ones I could sign with my real John Hancock. It came down to the fact that I wanted the good stuff to be from “mom,” and St. Nick could take credit for the socks and undies. I suppose it surprised me when I realized this year I wasn’t quite so obsessed with the possession of accolades. I was gonna give Santa the credit for the electric scooters and the humongous Playmobil school house. Which, by the way, was the thing she wanted more than anything else! So, what had changed?
I recently overheard a conversation between women. One lady was lamenting over the fact that the recipient of her gift each year never said thank you. In light of the lack of gratitude, she had decided to withdraw her present passing. She had come to the conclusion to stop giving where it wasn’t appreciated.
I. Get. It.
This Advent Season, the time of anticipation prior to the arrival of Christmas morning, I’ve really thought about the gift. You know, gift with a capital G… the greatest gift. If it doesn’t fill you with shock and awe, then I’d encourage you to keep thinking. Keep focusing on what really went down, until it clicks. Like, for real.
The One, the beginning and end, the Alpha and Omega, the maker of Heaven and earth, took the form of the weakest among us. The One who had all power and dominion, and a pretty sweet home already, made the decision to lower Himself to our level.
First, He came as a baby. The weakest of all humanity. It wasn’t a magic baby, like that fireball kid on The Incredibles. He couldn’t hold up His head, and had to have Mary change his soiled underpants. We don’t often think of our Savior in such a demeaning position, but He did that. He made Himself like us.
Second, He arrived the child of a young woman much like someone you may know. Mary wasn’t the daughter of a well-to-do congressman, or the sole heir of an oil tycoon. She didn’t have a typed out birth plan, with a personal doula, or even a photo ready nursery where He would lay His head. Point being, God’s son could have come down on a streak of lighting, in His full glory, ready to take the throne, and smite His enemies into compliance, but that’s not how it went down. He lowered Himself to the weakest position, placed in the most undesirable circumstances, from a family lineage of prostitutes, adulterers, and murderers, to begin a revolution that would change the future of all mankind. But here’s the real kicker…
He did it without thought of what we would do afterwards.
A Son was given, as a sacrifice to all. Even the ones who would deny Him.
His love is poured out for the very people who hate Him, even knowing they wouldn’t send a thank you card.
Christmas is a reminder of a gift given, with no promise of accolades or even acceptance. He didn’t sacrifice Himself for Himself, but rather for us, even knowing that many would say, “nah. No thanks, I’m good without it.”
It didn’t come in shiny paper and big bows. But it also didn’t come with a return policy. It had no “use-by” date to prevent expiration (until the wedding feast, that is), and no stern statement by Dad of, “you better keep your room clean or we’ll give it to someone who will appreciate more!”
He just gave the gift. He simply put it out there. It’s like, He said, “I know some kids will reject it, but I’m gonna give it anyway.”
I’m gonna give this because I love you, even if you don’t love me back.
It’s occurred to me that giving is a gift. To place myself as a servant, pouring out love to others, with no anticipation of how they’ll react, is a blessing that alines me with the character of my Savior. I don’t need to take the credit or receive a pat on the back. I don’t need you to acknowledge that I love you for me to love you well. Jesus died for my grandchildren that haven’t even been born, the grandchildren that will have their own free will to throw the gift away if they so choose. Yet, He gives.
May we all learn a little better each day how to be extravagant givers like Jesus, pouring out of ourselves, yet not requiring to sign the gift tag with our name. Giving in love, with no thought of what we can get in return, or if our present will be received graciously. To love is to give, without expectation. To give is the gift. The best gift of all.