Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift! II Corinthians 9:15
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
On the day after Christmas, many people go to the mall to reject gifts they were given for gifts they really wanted. Yes, people go to shop for after Christmas sales and to buy things with gift cards that they received for Christmas. And there are people who receive something like a sweater but it’s the wrong size so they exchange it for one that fits better. However, many people go to the store to return gifts they received that they didn’t want.
I suppose it’s better to get something you’ll actually use rather than hold onto something that will just take up space. However, our post-Christmas gift returning/rejecting provides a good metaphor for how we treat the gifts that God has given to us.
When we know people well, we get gifts that are thoughtful, and reflect how we know them. For instance, perhaps we know someone who loves to cook, who recently complained that they needed a new set of cooking knives, so we go and buy them a beautiful set of cooking knives with a lifetime warranty. This is a thoughtful gift.
God has given each of us gifts and talents that are as unique as each of us. God’s gifts to each of us have been well thought out by God. He didn’t give them to us randomly or accidentally or incorrectly. God has given each of us exactly what He knows we need in order to make our way to salvation as well as witness for Him in the world. He gave some of us great voices, and others got great speaking skills, others are singers, and others have great physical strength. Some are adept at writing while others are more adept at reading. Some were given the gift of marriage and children.
Imagine if we treated God’s gifts to us like the Christmas presents we don’t want. Imagine if we went and rejected them. We don’t have to imagine, because many people actually do exactly this. They don’t embrace the gifts they have been given, but rather reject them, or complain about them, or resent God because they received one thing and not something else.
God’s plan for salvation for humanity is like a giant puzzle. We each hold one piece of the puzzle. If you have an enormous puzzle of thousands of pieces and you get to the end and one piece is missing, that puzzle will always be incomplete. It will be nearly complete, but will still be incomplete. Because every piece is needed to complete it. If we each hold one piece of the puzzle of the salvation of humanity, then each of us is important. Now some pieces may be edge pieces, or corner pieces, they may contain many colors or just be plain, but each piece is needed. Rather than reject our piece or wish we had a different one, it is important that we each embrace whatever piece of the puzzle we have, whatever gift we have been given. We should go to the Lord with a sense of gratitude, thanking for the gifts we have, rather than with a sense of frustration, sad for the gifts we do not have.
When you ask most people what is their favorite gift, most people will say “just give me a gift card or some money and I’ll buy what I want.” The most meaningful gifts I receive are actually letters, thoughtful words people have taken time to write down. The next most meaningful gifts are things I want but either can’t afford or won’t spend money on. They are things I can really use, but would probably not spend the money on them. And the third most important gifts to me are gifts of time. Because time is my most precious commodity. If someone offers to do something so I don’t have to do it, or to help me with something so it takes less time, that is a great gift. Notice none of my favorite gifts is a gift card.
When someone gives me one of these gifts, I do two things. I accept the gifts. I do not reject them. And I accept them gratefully. I try to honor the giver in return.
God knows the kinds of gifts we need. He knows we don’t need complete lack of direction, so He doesn’t give us a “gift card” and tell us to do whatever we want. That is actually kind of debilitating. God gifts us certain gifts that point us in a specific direction. Perhaps He picks things we would not have picked for ourselves because HE knows we will be good at them before we do. He knows that we will like them before we do.
Our reaction to God’s gifts should be two-fold as well. We should accept His gifts, rather than trying to exchange, reject or return them. And we should accept them gratefully. We should honor Him, our Giver, in return.
Many people make Christmas synonymous with gift giving. And many people think once the last present is opened on Christmas, there are no more gifts until the next birthday. God’s gifts to us are gifts we can open every day, not only on Christmas. With God, there isn’t a big rush for gifts at Christmas, followed by any sense of sorrow once they’ve all been opened. God gives us gifts every day, starting off with the very life we have, the air we breathe, families we take care of, skills we use, and experiences we get to enjoy. Thus, every day should be a day of joy, for the gifts we have; a day of acceptance, of the gifts we have been given; and a day of gratitude, toward the Giver of those gifts, God.
Hearken, Benefactor, to the hymns of Your servants, and humble the arrogant contempt of the foe. Carry us Your musicians, all-seeing Master, high above all sin, immovably established firmly on the Faith’s foundation, O Blessed One. (Katavasias of Christmas, Iambic, trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Unwrap God’s gifts to you today (and every day)—life, breath, people and opportunities—and use them gratefully!
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