Christmas is the gift-giving season; from the December 6th feast of St. Nicholas to the celebration of the Epiphany a month later on January 6th, there are many opportunities for giving. The term gift is used so much, but what does it really mean?
As a word, gift has been in the English language since the 12 century. According to Merriam-Webster, a gift is “something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation.” While that definition does make sense, there are a lot of words in that definition that could also be broken down a bit further. In seeing the word voluntarily, I immediately think of the word volunteer, which shares an etymology, although the words developed at slightly different times. Some of the definitions include: proceeding from one’s own choice, intentional, and uncoerced. However, I think my favorite definition of the word is: done of one’s own free will. Digging deeper into the word transferred, definitions like to convey or to pass seem to fit within this definition, but I was surprised to see it can also mean transform/change as well as to print or copy from one surface to another.
This season there may have been gifts we really liked and others that we may, or perhaps have already returned! Many of these may have been part of a gift exchange, where one person gifts another and receives a gift in return. While I would hope we don’t expect gifts from others this season, it’s almost hard not to expect some sort of “compensation” or gift in return for one we give another. However, our gift giving is supposed to be a reflection of God’s gifts to us: our life, our free will, and His Son as our Savior.
God does not make us do anything, but He does ask us to participate in bringing His Kingdom to our world. He has given us the free will to say “Yes” or “No,” each having its own benefits and challenges. If we say Yes to God, He will reward us, either in this life or the next, and most likely both! However, doing God’s will may make life a bit difficult, since the culture encourages us to do the opposite. If we say No to God, it may seem that we’re in control and writing our own life story. It may even feel like we are succeeding, but in the end, we are living away from God and not taking the opportunity to have a relationship with Him. We also risk saying a final No to spending our eternity with Him. If we are mirroring God’s gift giving, it can transform and change us. We’ll be thinking of those receiving our gifts, as we intentionally selecting the gift specifically for each recipient. As God has bestowed precious gifts to us, so we can convey meaningful gifts to each other that bring us all closer to Him.
The gift we all celebrate this season is Jesus, God’s Son becoming man to be our Savior and repair the damaged relationship mankind has with God due to original sin. Jesus is a gift, freely given, uncoerced and without expectation of compensation. The choice is ours to either receive and accept The Gift or refuse and ignore it.