With due respect to the fabled “Jelly of the Month Club,” there really are gifts that keep giving the whole year.
Like many of you, I keep mental lists of gift ideas these days before Christmas. But most items on my lists, however welcomed I hope them to be on Christmas morning, are not lasting.
God’s gifts to us not only endure but, happily, are intended to be regifted. In that sense, the Bible is full of gift ideas. No shopping or wrapping required.
Let me explain: Christmas celebrates Christ’s coming to Earth, “when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared” (Titus 3:4).
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, he revealed God to be kind, loving and eager to forgive sinners.
We can never love to the depth, or degree, that God loves. But the Scriptures tell us we can “be imitators of God as dear children,” by treating others in ways that echo the love God has lavished upon us.
God’s love is an initiating love; He took the first step toward sinful people like me and extended grace. I don’t deserve to be saved from sin, but God graciously offers such rescue through faith in Christ.
We can imitate the initiating love of God by expressing grace – unearned blessing – to others. Grace is lasting, even in small doses, and not easily forgotten.
A few days ago, I saw someone quietly buy coffee for the unsuspecting person in line behind her. That free coffee is long gone. But the fragrance of grace remains.
Even such simple expressions stand out in our minds because they are not typical. Typically, we relate to others on a more proportional basis. Don’t you think? Someone acts loving toward us, so we love them back.
It’s human nature to save our highest expressions of love for those who, in our judgment, really seem to merit them.
At Christmastime, we remember that God’s love is so much purer than that. He loves the unlovely, the undeserving, even those who once ignored him or thumbed their noses at him.
The Apostle Paul reminds Titus that God’s love, expressed in Jesus, is a love that he “poured out on us abundantly” (Titus 3:6).
God’s love is not merely an idea, but personal, practical and lavish. When the “kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared” at Christ’s birth, God’s love became tangible, and therefore, receivable.
In Christ’s advent, love stepped out of the shadows of ideas and mere emotions – and took action.
You know, grace, kindness and love always travel together.
But kindness took the front seat recently when a Canadian airline surprised passengers by having “Santa” appear at a kiosk as they checked in for their flight. Passengers were asked what they wanted for Christmas, and most of them gladly played along.
When the travelers reached their destination, Christmas gifts with the passengers’ names on them started tumbling out onto the luggage carousel. To the passengers’ further surprise, as the gifts were opened, they contained exactly what each person had lightheartedly requested.
Yes, the airline is riding a nice PR boost now, thanks to YouTube and Facebook. Still, the company initiated costly kindness to unsuspecting people, people who had done nothing to deserve the favor.
I still get a kick out of that line made famous by National Lampoon’s Cousin Eddie. But the notion of a “gift that keeps on giving the whole year” also challenges me.
Love, grace and kindness are such lasting gifts. They’re whispers of the unparalleled love of God for sinners like us.
Let’s give them generously.