Help With Christmas Gifts
by Al Valdés
More than birthdays or anniversaries the Christmas season gives us an opportunity to think about gifts—our attitude towards them, and our motive for giving them. When thinking about Christmas gifts—or any gift actually—we can come up with different categories of presents. Let’s look at a partial list and see how they can particularly help us this Christmas.
Different kinds of gifts
Our culture and customs help us recognize different kinds of gifts. See if you can identify with these:
- The obligation gift: This category pertains to when we start our shopping with, “I have to buy a gift for…” This applies when we get invited to an event that requires that we bring something (birthday, going away parties), during certain holidays (Valentines Day… but not Arbor Day), or when someone gives us something and we feel the pressure to reciprocate. Guilt and social shame motivate this kind of gift giving. We don’t want to look bad, so we buy something.
- The re-gift: The television show Seinfeld brought attention to this kind of present with its episode on “re-gifting” or giving to a third party a gift that someone gave us that we either don’t like or have no use for. This resembles #1 above except that it includes the factor of secrecy and the potential for feeling shame if someone finds out that we re-gifted.
- The love gift: This represents the highest category of gift (and arguably the only true gift on the list). This one comes from the heart, has the well being or happiness of the recipient in mind, and doesn’t expect a gift of equal or greater worth in return. Giving someone a live saving organ or sacrificing one’s life for another fit in this category. God’s gift of eternal life, Heaven, and forgiveness belongs here.
Now, despite the different categories, all gifts resemble each other in key ways.
What all gifts share in common
All gifts have these three essential characteristics: Someone else pays for the gift—not us. They genuinely offer it to us. And, we receive it by faith —we believe that the giver intends to truly give us a gift, and we won’t get a bill. If we think about it, these also apply to the gift of eternal life and Heaven. God genuinely offers us eternal life as an absolute gift paid for by His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ —God and man in one Person. We don’t deserve it, can never pay for it, and receive it by believing in Jesus … period. Interestingly, when we speak to people about God’s gift of eternal life they sometimes see it as automatic (everyone gets it or has it) or meritorious (we have to earn it by good behavior). But we don’t get the gift automatically without believing and we would need perfection to earn it. So, we need the Bible to give others and us the precise picture.
God gives us eternal life as a gift
These verses (among others) highlight the fact that God gives us eternal life as a gift when we believe in Jesus. Believe means that we have become convinced or persuaded of the truth. We believe that God has told us the truth and will keep His promise! Notice how the following verses highlight belief, God’s provision for us through Jesus’ death, and the freeness of the gift—we don’t deserve or earn eternal life:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16-18)
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:23-25a)
The Bible has others, but these can give us a good foundation for understanding and communicating God’s gift.
As we shop this holiday season let’s think about how, why, and what we will buy —and aim to use love as a guiding factor. When we witness to others let’s focus on Jesus who paid the full price for our salvation by offering His life for us. He paid 100% of the price for our sin, promises us eternal life (no hell or eternal condemnation) when we believe Him for it, and always keeps His promises. Finally, let’s use the Scriptures to back up what we say. And… and if we haven’t believed in Him yet… believe!