Giving and Receiving

By Ross Engel

At Christmas we often hear pious and wonderful things like, “Tis better to give than to receive.” As a kid I never quite understood that phrase. I thought it was really awesome to receive gifts, though, truth be told, some givers gave better gifts than others. I’m sure everyone has that well-meaning grandparent or other relative who gives gifts that are a bit more awful than awesome. I am reminded of that scene from “A Christmas Story” where poor Ralphie gets the dreaded gift of the homemade pink bunny suit and slippers from Aunt Clara. While mom gushes over how precious the outfit looks, Dad simply speaks the truth, “He looks like a deranged Easter Bunny… a pink nightmare”

If Aunt Clara is the giver of the gift, disappointment, embarrassment, humiliation, even life becoming a “veritable hell” can possibly be the end result.

Not every gift giver does a great job at giving gifts.

I myself admit that I’ve given some real doozies of bad gifts over the years. If you talk to my wife, (please don’t, I think she’s finally gotten over the pain), she might tell you about the body fat measuring scale that I gave her for our first married Christmas. (In my defense, it was something we had registered for when we got married). Or perhaps she’ll mention the year she got weights, a yoga mat and workout clothes (even though she doesn’t yoga). She might reminisce about the griddle (yes griddle, not girdle) that I got her one year because I know she likes to make pancakes. She might even tell you how one year on her birthday, I didn’t wrap the gifts but rather put them in a pillowcase for her to reach inside and pull out one at a time. This amazing woman still manages to love and cherish me; I truly am blessed in that sense!

Gift giving is always an adventure.

In Luke 11:11-13 Jesus speaks about gift giving saying,

Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he?  Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

When it comes to giving and receiving gifts, the giver makes all the difference in the world. We may do a pretty decent job when it comes to giving gifts. We also may fail miserably at times. But when it comes to our Heavenly Father, He always gives the best gifts of all. His gifts are perfect, they are long lasting, they won’t embarrass or humiliate. Our Lord’s gifts are life, salvation, and even heaven itself!

As the season of Advent draws near and Christmas approaches on its heels, let us all be reminded of the perfect gift that we receive in the Savior born in Bethlehem. In Him is found forgiveness, life, salvation – reconciliation between God and mankind.

For this gift we rejoice, we sing, we gather, and we receive. For our Lord doesn’t just give this gift once, two thousand years ago, this gift continues to come to us through the vehicles of Word and Sacrament, through the preaching and delivering of God’s precious goods, through the Church and her ministers.

When God is the giver of the gift, it is very good to receive! And when you are charged with delivering God’s gifts, it is awfully good to be the giver of those gifts too!