Christmas is the time for presents, for giving and receiving. Children especially often think giving gifts is the real definition of Christmas! We may fully expect that our spouses, family and friends give us something at this time of year. But what about the people who give us a gift 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 to give us the few dollars that we are short?
Isn’t our immediate reaction to want to refuse this kindness, or to try return the favour?
We don’t like feeling like we are in someone’s debt. We don’t want “charity”.
It can be really hard to receive something we feel we don’t deserve or that we can’t repay; something from someone we might not like or thought didn’t like us.
Receiving undeserved kindness is very humbling. It hurts our pride and dents our self-reliance.
There even seems to be a subtle power play in giving and receiving. The giver has the advantage over the receiver as the gift is perceived to place 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 may be seen as 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 and self-reliance become blockages to intimacy. Unless someone allows us to hold that slight position of power sometimes, we will never be able to develop a closeness. 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 His 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 this grace, that we could never pay or repay it, and that it places us in a position where we need to humble ourselves before God, to express our gratitude towards Him in the way we live the rest of our lives.
Our pride is what often comes between us and the very love and rescue from sin 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 then understand what enormous pleasure and satisfaction it gives God to offer you His undeserved and often unsought for gift of love, forgiveness and eternal life. •