Gift exchange

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

This Christmas, how will you be involved in the giving and getting of gifts? From ancient times, gift-giving has been associated with many holidays at the turn of the year, and the wise men who visited Jesus at his birth were leaders for us in the practice.

For the most part, gift-giving is a happy and joyful experience. But, have you ever had a less-than-joyful experience with gifts?

Gift exchanges can be tricky.

Along with the ribbons and bows, we tend to wrap up and tuck in our own expectations, and depending on the gift or who’s giving it, that’s where trouble brews.

Gift exchanges are piled high with both the promise of great joy and the possibility of sensational disappointment.

Jesus knows this, and He wants us to know it.

In the verse from the gospel of John above, Jesus is meeting with His disciples only hours before his torturous crucifixion and death. Having had supper together, the group of men are listening to their leader as he paints a picture of how their lives will soon be turned completely upside down.

Bottom line? He’s leaving . . . but He’s not leaving them alone. He’s promising to send the Holy Spirit, and He’s promising a gift: His peace.

He says He’s now giving this to them, but He is not giving it as the world gives.

What does THAT mean?

Who is, “the world,” and how does it give? How is this different from how Jesus gives?

These questions leave us peering into a deep well, but here’s what I am learning:

I am learning that “the world” represents the circumstances, the culture, or anything or anyone around us that seeks to rent out the rooms in our mind or our heart: dwellings that belong only and completely to God.

  • In the bargain for acceptance, we seek people’s approval.
  • In the quest for security, we rely on a stock market trend.
  • In the search for identity, we hope to run fast enough, jump high enough, or speak well enough.

The world’s cost is high, its promises thin, and there are no guarantees.

Ever.

It proposes a certain type of exchange, and its this exchange that Jesus wants us to think about.

Here are some differences:

  • The world gives with an eye toward its limited resources. God’s gifts flow from unending, generous abundance.
  • The world gives only after getting something. God’s giving goes first.
  • The world’s gifts come with the quid pro quo of our ever increasing, personal cost. God has borne personally all the cost of His gifts to us.
  • The world’s gifts come in one size and work to squeeze us into a stifling sameness of conformity. God’s gifts provide for and celebrate our free and fully unique identities.

In that upper room and this Christmas, we find a reminder to forsake our yearning for inferior gifts. Jesus wants us to know that we can trust in and rely on the gifts He gives and the way He gives them.

All we truly want and need won’t be in a store, in a relationship, a bank account or recognition, health or under a tree in a brightly wrapped package with our name on it.

We need to look to Him as the Supreme Giver of all that lasts, all that we need.

The gift and the Giver are delivered as one thing: always the right size, always the right time, always the right way.

We do not need to worry or be afraid, for Light has come, and He’s brought gifts.

Merry Christmas.

 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

SMOOTHSTONE: We can trust in and rely on the gifts God gives and the way He gives them.


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