“Daddy, I don’t want to open any more Christmas presents,” whined one of our children after several hours of non-stop gift unwrapping. The adults, all too willing to leave the remaining heap of presents unopened, breathed a collective sigh of relief. We had already lost one child in the pile of crumpled paper.
Okay, so I’m exagerating-but not much. Christmas 1988 at my wife Dee Dee’s parents’ home was so bountiful the kids grew weary of receiving and mutinied. They simply stood and walked out of the room, forcing us to set the rest of the gifts aside for spring birthdays. Dee Dee’s parents had always been generous. Every year around the first of November, Grandma Dori would ask the grand kids to write out their gift lists. Being obedient grandchildren they would sit down and compile personal catalogs, each complete with its own table of contents. Grandma Dori would then collect the catalogs, translate them and select a few choice items to purchase.
The year of the mutiny, however, nearly every gift asked for had been purchased, wrapped and placed with love under the tree, because Grandpa had done the shopping. Unfortunately, shortly after receiving the grand kids’ 1988 Christmas catalogs, Grandma Dori became too ill with cancer to pare down the lists and shop. So out into the wild unknown went Grandpa Jim. How was he to know he should pick and choose from the many wished for items? Owning a generous heart and never having done the Christmas shopping before, Grandpa Jim saw nothing wrong with giving what was asked for.
Neither does God, because God by his very nature is a giver. Look back to the very beginning of human/Divine interaction. God opened his hands and heart providing for Adam and Eve until they decided to seek wisdom and sustenance elsewhere. From that dark moment on, each of us has turned our backs on God’s open hands. We, like my children that long ago Christmas, have mutinied from God’s bounty. We continually walk out of a room filled with blessings. Why do we do this? For vast numbers of us the reason is the same Adam and Eve conjured up. “We want to do it ourselves.” Independence. These orphans mistake God’s open hands for fists ready to pummel them. They see each package under the tree as a trick with some spidery string attached. To them love wears a mask hiding a desire to control. Therefore, God’s unfathomable gifts of forgiveness, freedom and eternity remain unopened.
Some of us mutiny because we don’t believe anyone could love us that much. These urchins stand in the corner, eyes to the floor, wishing they deserved such grand gifts. Here God’s open hands are seen with fingers pointing out guilt and shame. They are correct, of course. We do not deserve even the air we breath. Fortunately, however, God’s love flows through mercy not merit. Jesus’ hands had to be open in a magnificent gesture of love in order to receive the nails pinning him to the cross.
In comparing human givers with the Ultimate Giver, Jesus places the spotlight on the Giver not the receiver or even the gift. “If you, then, though you are imperfect, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him,” he says.
The love behind Grandpa Jim’s bounty was the greatest gift of all and no one left that package unopened. The Bible tells us that God so loved he gave . . . . That bountiful Christmas of 1988 my father-in-law, Jim gave with no strings attached and without considering who deserved what or needed or wanted what. He gave from the bounty of an open heart and with open hands. In that Jim was like God. There is no reason to mutiny from God’s bounty. This Christmas don’t leave God’s gift of love unopened.
In memory of James L. Warden, October 22, 1921-March 27, 2002, and Doris K. Warden, November 20, 1922-November 19, 1989.
May you have a happy and holy Christmas and may you see God for who he truly is: the giver of all good gifts. Eugene
Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.
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If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com. If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO