Summary: God’s perfect gift to us in the life of His only begotten Son.
Dec. 25, 1999
Now that the holiday season is here, it seems that finding the right gift for the right person seems to be at the top of the list for many people. If you went to the shopping malls these past few days, you will find that people are buying things that they usually don’t buy during other times of the year. And people buy things in big quantities. The reason why people buy things in big quantities is to give them as gifts.
Finding the right store and the right price are two other related concerns. Just weeks before the holiday season started, bazaars and other bargain stores have been flooded with people. People go to these stores to find not necessarily the right item, but for the right price. But why worry about the right gift?
A. For one thing, gifts convey several messages.
1. First, it conveys a message about the giver’s economic, social, and moral status in life. If a gift, for example, is an expensive one, we generally conclude that the giver is rich. If a gift has religious bearing, we often think that the giver is a pious person.
2. Second, a gift, although it may not tell the true worth of the recipient, conveys the value and importance that the giver has toward the recipient. The gifts of the Magi, for example, conveyed the Magi’s estimation about Jesus. The gift of gold symbolizes that Jesus is king. The gift of incense symbolizes that Jesus is God. And the gift of myrrh symbolizes that Jesus is our Redeemer.
3. Gifts are given for the purpose of strengthening relationships, or mending a broken one. It is a symbol of good will. The story of Jacob and Esua illustrates this point very clearly. In Genesis 32: 13-21, we find Jacob selecting precious gifts to be given to his brother to pacify his anger and ultimately restore their broken relationship.
B. What Makes a Gift the Right Gift?
1. Different persons have different ways of evaluating the rightness of the gift. First, some people believe that the right gift comes with the financial value associated with it. That is, the more financially valuable the gift is, the closer it moves to the category of being right.
2. Second, others believe that the gift is right if it meets the particular need of the recipient. Hence, the most expensive gift may not be the right gift at all if it does not meet the need of the recipient; and the most inexpensive gift may be the right gift if it meets the need of the recipient.
3. Third, a gift is considered right if it is wrapped with pure, unadulterated motive in the heart of the giver. The “Trojan Horse,” for instance, in spite of its enormous size and perhaps its financial value, was not a gift at all because of the motive and the reason why it was given.
Some time ago, a story goes that a man punished his 3-year old daughter for wasting a roll of gold wrapping paper. Money was tight and he became infuriated when the child tried to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree. Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift to her father the next morning and gave it to him. He was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, but his anger flared again when he found the box empty. He yelled at her telling her that there must be something in the box for it to be a gift. The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and said, “Oh, Daddy, it is not empty. I blew kisses into the box. All for you Daddy.”
As we can see from this story, the gift may come in the form of an empty box, but the motive behind it is priceless. It may not measure up to the material expectations of our modern mind, but the love that it bears is incomparable. What makes a gift the right gift? Right price? To some extent, yes! Right solution to a particular need? Of course! Right motive? Definitely!
At first glance, weaving these three elements of the right gift into one pattern may be easy. But in reality, they are not. As human beings, we tend to focus on the financial value of the gift rather than on the spiritual aspect of it. Hence, the needs that it meets are often those at the surface rather than those at the bottom. Even our motives, at best, are deceptive, often with grains of selfishness if not outright boasting. We give because we have to and not because we love to.
C. The Gift of God
This, however, does not leave us without the right gift. Rightly understood, the birth and life of Jesus offers to us the perfect gift. If we apply the three elements that we have discussed about the perfect gift, we will find that the gift of God in Jesus surpasses our human expectations.