Confessions of Ungrateful Gift-Loving

When I was a young boy I honestly looked forward to the tearing open of Christmas wrapped gifts more than spending time with the givers themselves. I endured Christmas dinner with nothing but the prospects of a great Christmas haul on my mind. The initial high was in the opening of gifts, many of which I already discerned the contents of, and then in the enjoyment of them in isolation once home.

Yeah, I was one of those kinds of kids.

I would go through the obligatory hugs and kisses, veiled humility in informing the inquiring family that I was earning straight A’s and doing well in sports, thank the respective givers of gifts and pose for pictures, all the while tabulating in my mind the value of the gifts and how much I would enjoy them. The gifts could have been stolen for all I cared – they were mine mine mine – and that’s all that seemed to matter.

Well, that kid grew up (thankfully!!!) and I started to appreciate the Christmas meal with family, steeped in its fixed structure and liturgy. I realized that my grandparents were getting older, and more than lamenting the future loss of gifts, I started to lament the thought of the annual tradition without the decorated home, the aroma of turkey and pie, grandma’s fudge, and the departing hugs from a warm body filled with cheer and love.

Those days are now in the past. I scarcely own any of those gifts from my childhood that once possessed my thoughts. I would gladly trade all of it in for one more Christmas celebration with the full cast playing their annual parts. I can now say that I love the givers more than the gifts. My recollection of the gifts only brings back sweet memories so far as they prompt my appreciation for the intentions of the giver – Grandma picking up a box of baseball cards at a garage sale, having no idea of their contents, but hoping I would enjoy them. That box happened to yield an Ozzie Smith rookie card, among other gems. The gift was love incarnate, filled with intentionality and thoughtfulness – what you would expect from a good grandma.

As a professing Christian, I enjoy the greatest blessing of love incarnate in the person of Jesus, the eternal Son of God. He is the giver and the gift, and therefore what we enjoy is eternally inseparable – He forever remains the incarnate Son of God in the flesh. Theologian G.C. Berkouwer offered this insight:

In human relationships it is possible—out of ingratitude—to isolate the gift from the giver and still enjoy it, and there are also “unknown” givers who remain in the background. But Christ is not such an unknown giver. He gives himself, and therefore his gift is never an isolated richness.[1]

Unfortunately, there are some who prefer an isolated gift – Say a prayer and be initiated into a privatized benefit program that assures you fire insurance, is how some would prefer the Gospel. The good news is better than such a narrow and selfish vision for personal salvation. May we not be merely content with an isolated salvation, but embrace the entire gift of Jesus himself as he pledges his presence to the family he has adopted and made into one. Jesus does not offer us an a la carte salvation menu, but offers us all of himself through his body, of which you are a member. God is the Gospel!

[1] Berkouwer, G. C. (1965). The Work of Christ. Studies in Dogmatics (20). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.

© 2012, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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