Summary: When life does not flow to others through us, there is no giving. When we begin to give as God gives Himself, God fills us with more of His life. God is God because He gives Himself.
A story that Theodor Schnitzler, an erstwhile parish priest of Cologne, narrates, explains the nature of a gift. Those were the days of hunger and misery soon after the World War II. One day before Christmas, he visited an old man in a home for the aged. During the conversation, the postman delivered to him a big basket full of christmas gift, sent by one of his rich daughters. One could see in the big basket cigars, tobacco, cognac, wein, shoes filled with chocolates and many more warm things. The old man did not show himself impressed by this rich gift. Rather, he looked at it with contempt. Fr. Schnitzler was surprised. He asked, “Mr. Maier, how can you look at such a rich christmas gift with contempt? All the good things are there in it!” The old man looked at him and said, “But there is no love in it!” He spoke further, “My daughter has got it packed by her wokers, picked up a printed christmas card and wrote on it ‘your daughter Luise and son-in-law’”. That is all, nothing more. She does not wish me personally, does not visit me or does not invite me “Come and celebrate christmas with us!”
The story makes clear that any gift without love is no gift. The best gift is that which is given out of love. How big it is or how expensive it is, does not determine the worth of it. It is love, care and concern that make a gift precious. Such a gift conveys confidence, promise, a sense of security, a feeling of being wanted and loved and a good relationship. In such a gift, one can find the self of the person who gifts it. There is his heart in it. And heart in the bible stands for the centre of one’s being. It is what makes up a human being, his reason, will and his mental disposition.
The gospel, John 1.1-18, speaks of such a gift-giving by God. God is the Word. It is like the heart of God. As this Word becomes a human being, He gives Himself to the world. His idea is to plant Himself – this Word, this Light, this Heart, this Love, this Forgiveness and Reconciliation and all that He is – in the centre of the human person. So that we also imitate this incarnation of God, this God becoming man, this Word becoming Flesh in our daily life. God wants our giving to be modelled after His. His own giving of Himself to us is such, that it is like a chemical substance that changes things into something new, when they come into contact with each other. Through His Word, God wants to change us into new, better human persons. When we imitate this relationship of God to us, our life also becomes life-giving flesh in the lives of others.
A man whom I know told me once that he owes his life to his elder brother. Already when he was a child, their parents died, leaving four children. His brother worked hard, even upto 16 hours a day, in order to make sure of a good education and a good future for the children. Only after all had settled down in life, he started caring for his own life. He was already in his late fourties, when he married. We find such a commitment very seldom. That is the kind of life that gifts life to others.
When life does not flow to others through us, there is no giving. When we begin to give as God gives Himself, God fills us with more of His life. That is the key to eternal life. As christians, we are called to imitate this gift-giving, this God becoming man, in our relation to our fellow-humans. That makes us Light, Love, Forgiveness and Life for the World. One who does that, gives himself, gifts himself to others, like His Son Jesus, in whom God shows His face and reveals His glory to the world.
[partly indebted to: Peter Seul, Gottes Wort, p.85]