When you were a kid, there were some Christmas gifts you would die for (like a Power Wheels Car or a Giga Pet) and some gifts you dreaded (underwear from Grandma). As an adult, there are still some gifts that you appreciate (cash!) more than others (underwear from Grandma). But when it comes down to it, you get underwear from Grandma because it’s such a practical gift that she knows you need and use daily. Long after you stopped caring about the Giga pet and let it die in a pile of electronic poop, you were still wearing the underwear from Grandma.
Sometimes the gifts Jesus gives us are a lot like that. They aren’t what we want, or anything we would ask for in a million years. But before we wrap it back up for the holier-than-thou neighbor down the street, we should stop and ask if maybe, just maybe, we need a little more of what He’s giving:
Jesus offers us the chance to humble ourselves and admit we can’t do this whole “life” thing on our own. He invites us to admit that we need Him to rescue us and we need other people, too, which brings us to the second gift:
Jesus gives us the chance to become part of His “body”–the group of people who believe in Him. We don’t want this gift because as Americans, we bleed individualism. We don’t like admitting that we need other people to call us out on our crap and hold us accountable. We don’t want the inconvenience that comes with close relationships–the caring, the sacrifice, the offenses, the forgiveness that are required. But that’s exactly what He gives us.
Jesus often says “no” or “not now” to something we want. It seems like He says “no” more often than “yes,” actually. Yet this is not a reflection of His unwillingness to give good things, but our inability to ask for things that would actually be good for us. Looking back on some of the ridiculous things I have prayed for over the years, I think this is one of the best gifts that He gives us.
Many people desire the gift of freedom, or as they define it, the ability to make their own choice and live life how ever they want. Often, however, this “freedom” leads them into unexpected slavery to alcohol, sex, food, acceptance, or love. Jesus calls us to freedom, not just to make any choice, but the freedom to make a good choice. He frees us from our old, oppressive masters to obey His commands, which are life-giving and made for our benefit.
This is the granddaddy of all re-gifts. Although we hate to see other people go through pain, if we are honest, we would much rather it be them than us. However, Jesus invites us to partake of the sufferings He endured on the cross, and has the audacity to tell us to rejoice in this “gift”! Why? Because it makes us like Him; it means we are His; it is the ultimate mark of His disciples.
Raised in a democracy, we find this final gift quite unpalatable. The idea that someone should have ultimate authority and deciding power over our lives goes against everything we believe in. That is, until we realize this King loved us so much He first came to earth as a servant and died on our behalf. Surely, this King will be a compassionate, wise, and loving ruler, orchestrating our lives better than we ever could ourselves.
These are never gifts we would ask for, but sometimes the best gifts are those you don’t even know you need.
This Christmas season, take time to think about what Jesus offers before supposing His gifts are better suited for someone else.