The Great Gift Giver
December 22, 2016 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Do you like gift giving?
I really enjoy giving gifts, but it comes with a side of stress. I like giving surprise gifts. I like giving thoughtful gifts. I like giving frivolous gifts. These gift parameters, though, require some planning and work. And then there are deadlines. Therein lies the stress. But when I find the right gift and have the opportunity to watch the excitement of the gift receiver, I know it is worth all of the effort.
As much as gift giving has become a commercialized enterprise, this annual tradition with Christmas is rooted in Scripture. Paul quotes Jesus as saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). From the earliest days of the church, Christians were known to be generous with one another and also others outside of the church. Even the mythology of Santa Claus is rooted in the historical gift giving of a 4th century Christian bishop, Saint Nicholas.
Perhaps the greatest gift-giver of all, though, is our heavenly Father. In the midst of a wide-sweeping exaltation of praise for God, Paul highlights the Father’s gracious gift-giving in Ephesians 1:6. The ESV reads, “to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” I’m interested in the Greek word that is translated “has blessed with.” The word is the same word used for “grace” except in the form of a verb. English translations seem to have trouble translating this word, because every translation uses a different English word: “made accepted” (KJV); “freely bestowed” (NAS); “freely given” (NIV); “poured out” (NLT). A literal translation of verse 6 would say, “to the praise of the glory of his grace, with which he graced us in the beloved.”
I believe the struggle of modern Bible translators with this Greek word demonstrates the uniqueness of God’s gift-giving. We don’t have a comparable equivalent in the English language. God gives his grace freely, without any strings attached, expecting nothing in return, without condition. In fact, we are the furthest from any place of deserving such a gift. And God’s gift of grace is unique in that it does not add to who we are or what we have but completely changes us. Once dead, now made alive together with Christ. Once in the kingdom of darkness, now in the kingdom of the beloved Son. Once not a people, now a people. Once destined to eternal condemnation, now having the hope of eternal life in God’s presence.
As you give and receive gifts this Christmas, remember the ultimate and first gift giver: your heavenly Father. He has given gifts in Christ beyond comparison. He has given in a manner that we could never match perfectly. He has graced us with his grace in Christ. Now that is the best Christmas gift ever.