The Gift and the Gift-Giver
Christmas and gift-giving. It goes together like peanut butter and jelly. It’s hard to utter the word without thinking about a twinkling tree, stockings hung on the mantle and the excitement of opening beautifully wrapped packages.
We tell stories about the red, fur-clad gift-giver who tip-toes through our homes in the stillness of the night with custom-made toys for sleeping children.
Lists are created weeks in advance, letters are mailed and we stand in line to meet the messengers in the mall who will carry our requests to the big man himself. He checks his list twice. He knows our behavior, naughty or nice. And he delivers something for everyone on the eve of Christmas morning: coal for the bad kids, and presents for the good.
He is generous and affectionate, jolly and well-fed. But he isn’t the only one who appears with gifts at Christmas.
In fact, the real Gift-giver arrives with an even sweeter surprise: everyone gets something amazing. There are no lumps of coal or empty stockings when He is finished. Regardless of how well-behaved we’ve been, He gives freely. Not because we deserve it, because we don’t. Not because we asked for it, because we didn’t. He gives because we need what He offers, and He knows it. With excitement and humility He enters our world with a gift that only He can give.
We can’t line up in the store to purchase it. We can’t earn it with good behavior or good works. We can’t exchange it or re-gift it; it was purchased with no-returns policy. No lay-away, discounts or sales pitches. It it ours. Paid in full.
Jesus. He is the Gift AND the Gift-giver.
He is the greatest gift ever given. Offered without strings attached. It was an act of humility to exchange His throne for a manger. His crown for swaddling cloths. His eternal majesty for human infancy.
Many people see the magic of Santa the same way. They see the genuine love of a charitable man. Santa gives without asking anything in return. He brings joy to children all over the world. His story and acts of kindness cause faith to rise up in our hearts.
But Saint Nicholas can never do for us what Jesus did. There is no sacrifice in his gift-giving. While he is generous, he is a mere echo of the kindness and generosity that the King of Kings extended us when He came to earth.
Jesus is the joy that has come to the world. He is the thrill of hope given freely. Because of Him there is peace on earth. He is the reason for the songs and gift-giving and celebration.