Friday, 16 December 2011

Christmas Meditation: The Heart of the Giver

It is more blessed to give than to receive is a phrase you hear a lot at this time of year and it’s not just from clever kids who want to blackmail their parents into getting them presents! It's something we genuinely believe to be true.

In the school Christmas play this year, "A Modern Christmas Carol" (an impressive reworking of the original Dickens' classic by one of our drama teachers), we saw programme producer Ebenezer Scrooge learn that it's more blessed to give than to receive; as the ghosts of Christmas TV specials past, present and future took him on a life-transforming journey from selfish money grabber to joyful giver. Had that journey gone in the opposite direction, we would have been horrified and forlorn.

You may have seen the little advert produced by the dept store – John Lewis showing a young boy who can’t wait for Christmas, not because of what he's going to receive, but because he can’t wait to give his messily wrapped present to his parents (This ad has, I bet, brought tears to many an adult’s eye up and down the country.)

Indeed, one of the things it means to be a mature adult is to be a giver. When we arrive in the world as babies, all we can do is take. All we can give the world, in tangible terms, is soiled nappies. but as we grow up to be adults, the expectation for our correct development is that we become givers: to our families, to our communities and to our nation. The only thing more shocking than a selfish child, is a selfish adult.

But why is it like this? Why is it that when we see acts of kindness, our hearts grow warm and something in us says “yes” that is the way the world should be? Why is it that sharing is right and hording is wrong?

The reason is that every human being is made in the likeness of the God who is a giver and when we give, give generously, give sacrificially, give joyfully, we are reflecting / echoing the heart of the God who is the ultimate giver. At Christmas, Christians celebrate the generosity of this giving God who gave the best gift he could to the world – his very own Son.

 This gift of Jesus means three things:

1. We now know what God is like.
No one has ever seen God (Jn.1:18). The best we can come up with on our own when we think about what God is like, is that he must be powerful and clever - since he created the known natural world and universe. But Jesus has made him known - close up and personally known. The words of Jesus are the words of God, the actions of Jesus are the actions of God – the very heart of Jesus is the very heart of God. There is nothing left to guess about God once you have met Jesus.

2. We can know friendship with God.
If we're honest with ourselves – none of us are perfect – we all have faults and imperfect creatures cannot stand in the presence of a perfect and holy God. We are unworthy to stand before him, but in the gift of Jesus, God started a process - completed at Easter - whereby he reconciled the whole world to himself (2Cor.5:18-19). We can now know God as Father, not fear him as Judge (Jn.3:16).

3. We can live with God forever.
Even without the imperfections mentioned above, it's impossible for us human beings - made out of the dust of the earth - to stand in front of God without being burned up – it’s a bit like plugging your t.v. directly into an electric pylon and then being surprised when it explodes. The surge of power is too great. God's gift of Jesus means that though our bodies will one day ware out and die, we can be resurrected to a glorious and eternal life where we shine like the sun (Phil.3:20-21, Matt.13:43).

So thank God for Jesus! For in Jesus, God offers you his very heart. What will you do with that gift this Christmas and indeed all year round? Remember too, the next time you give, you're doing nothing original (Ec.1:9), but you are beautifully echoing the great Giver, who has given his heart to the world through giving his Son (1Chron.29:14-15).

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