Story of the Gifts

 

Remember, as children, waiting, with excited eyes, the arrival of cousins you’ve not seen for many months as they traveled over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house where you waited less than patiently for them to arrive?  Finally, after what seemed an eternity, they’d pull into the drive, and you’d be off to take up, where you’d left off, the game you’d played the last time you were together, or perhaps to share with them a new one you’d learned since that last time.

As suppertime draws nigh, you all go inside to wash your hands.  It is then that you notice all the gifts under the tree.  Excitedly, you forget your mission of soap and warm water, and instead explore the packages with your name on them.  All is abandoned now with the realization that you… “got gifts!”  Reality sets in and you’re reminded of your earlier mission to wash your hands, so with groans and moans you set off to complete that mission.

Supper ends, and the first question asked is, “Can we open presents now?”  But this is the eve of Christmas Eve.  “No,” is the answer.  Whines and gripes are uttered, deals and bargains are offered, and voices of protest are raised, but still the answer is… “Tomorrow!”

The gifts are forgotten (temporarily at least) and the games are resumed.  Begrudged interactions with aunts and uncles are endured, Christmas specials are watched on television, and another whole day is lived before the pre-supper order is again given to wash hands with warm water and soap.  The same question is asked upon the conclusion of the meal, and this time the answer is, “Soon.” 

“Soon,” to an excited child is like days or weeks to an adult.  The begging and pleading persist as the dishes are washed and the food is put away.  Finally, the table is wiped clean, the centerpiece… recentered, and the decorative placemats… replaced.  It is time!  It is finally here, but first, Grandpa pulls out his massive, old Bible, and to Luke, chapter two he turns.  The words roll out of Grandpa’s mouth as if he was in slow motion - as if his batteries were running low - and the more he reads, the slower he seems to read.

Finally!  Grandpa closes his massive, old Bible, bows his head… and then asks a blessing upon “that which we are about to receive.”  In your mind you’re thinking, “Alright already.  Let’s receive the darned things before they spoil.”  (As if metal and plastic could spoil.)  Grandpa, true to tradition, eases down upon his knees - a painful (and painfully slow) act for an old man - and begins to pass out gifts to their respective recipients with the admonition that no one is to open a gift until they’re all passed out!  Argh!!! 

All the children are poised with their fingers in the corners of their biggest, shiniest gifts.  All their parents are poised with their fingers upon the buttons of their cameras.  Grandpa makes his final survey of the Christmas tree skirt, and then, even more slowly and more painfully than when he went down, he begins the process of returning to his feet.  As he completes the operatic procedure, he gives a grunt and then gives his blessing on… the opening of the gifts.

Paper tears, ribbons are ripped, and bows fly across the room.  Cameras flash, children squeal, and mothers “ooh” and “ah”.  Thanks are ordered, and thanks are given along with begrudging hugs.  Fathers pick up the discarded paper, children run off to engage their new treasures, and mothers take a well-earned break.  Grandpa eases into his recliner, lights his pipe, and smiles as he looks around the room, content that all is well in the “kingdom” he surveys. 

The End

 

So… what of this story?  What is this all about?  Well… let us change it a bit.  Let us change but one small detail of this story - this Story of the Gifts.  Suppose, let’s say, that every last detail of this story stays the same except that the gifts are not opened.  They are anticipated, they are passed out, they are received and hoarded away, but they are not opened.  They are kept, stored away, and when the children have children, they are passed out all over again, repeating the process for the next generation.   

Gifts are made for giving.  They are supposed to be received, but if they remain in the package, unwrapped for the ages, what good are they?  Furthermore, what good does it do us to unwrap the thing if we’re just gonna put it on a shelf and admire it?  If that’s the case, we might as well leave it in the packaging where at least it will be… “protected from the dust”.  No! Gifts are to be unwrapped, the packaging is to be discarded, and the gift itself is to be used by the recipient himself.

Now this is not to say, if you find the packaging that the gift came in to be particularly attractive to you, that you must throw it away.  Save the pretty bows if you want, fold the shiny paper, and re-roll the ribbon; but remember: “The packaging is but a vessel to convey a gift from one to another.”  It’s not the packaging that’s important, but the gift within that is.  Open it up, use it, and when you grow up and have children of your own, don’t hand them the recycled gifts of your childhood - old, outdated gifts in faded paper and with smashed bows, dented in sides, and the sounds of broken plastic rattling around inside.

The gift, my friends, is a renewed commune with the God of the universe - not a standard of religious indoctrination.  Now, I want to make something perfectly clear here.  This pencil has no agenda.  It scribbles down what it “sees”.  What it is about to write down is hard, even for the holder of this pencil to “say”.  After all, I, the holder of this pencil, have been engrained with the same theology as everyone else in western civilization.  I love Jesus.  I am eternally grateful to Him for what He did for me at Calvary to bring me back to our Father in heaven, but (and here it is now) “Jesus of Nazareth was - Jesus is the packaging that the Gift came in.  The Gift is eternal life with the Spirit of our Creator, and that is not something you receive at death.  If you think that it is, then you are one who has not opened the Gift, but who has simply placed it upon a shelf to collect dust until it is inherited by your heirs.”

There.  I’ve “said” it.  I feel, due to the theology that the church has shoved down our throats for the last two thousand years, like I’ve just taken the Lord’s name in vain or something.  I feel… dirty.  I also feel as though I’ve been obedient to God - a strange paradox, I know, but methinks it’s due to the immature theology that we’ve all been believing rather than due to a disobedience to God.  If this pencil is “coloring outside the lines,” please, forgive it.  Its holder is only human, but remember this: “this pencil’s goal is truth and its allegiance is to the one and only God of the universe - not to uphold the… power and the position of an overly religious church.”  To God be the glory forever and ever.  Thank You, Jesus, for bringing me to Him!

 

The Real End

 

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