Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet? Many of you will have been done for some months, while others will brave the wilds of Christmas Eve looking for the elusive, perfect gift. Not all gifts are tangible items though–often, the best gifts cannot be wrapped or put under a tree. Of course, the most obvious example is the gift of Christ himself. He wasn’t the expected gift–He was born poor without pomp or respect (though the angels declared the event with unparalleled fervor). His gift of Himself is a much bigger gift than we can properly understand. Every Christmas is an opportunity to ponder again the wonder of His sacrifice.
However, we would be amiss to think that this one moment in history was the end of His gift-giving. When we think of God’s gifts, we tend to think of His gifts as something outside of ourselves. What about the gift He bestows upon you?
The Gift that Gives
God created each of us for a purpose and designed us with different abilities. Paul says, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). He has shared generously with us a variety of gifts in order to build up the community of God. Some of you are generous and are quick to see a need and meet it. Others are wise and people flock to you for counsel. Many open their homes creating a feeling of community over shared meals. A large number of you are creative, blessing our world with art, music, stories, and digital media. Some serve in the background, cooking and cleaning so that others can relax. These attributes are all gifts God has given–gifts that display His glory and His creativity.
When we share these gifts with others, we make this world a better place. Our actions create a culture where the true attributes of God are seen. First in the way we serve one another, and second in what we create. Many of us do not see ourselves as creative people (I myself have few original ideas), but we create in many ways. We create atmospheres, community, and also tangible items.
A Gift that Lasts
Our greatest contributions will be ones that stand the test of time and influence generations. Many of you are familiar with the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, whose works are celebrated and imitated. While watching a video series on Tolkien, I was repeatedly surprised at how he was inspired to write both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. For one, he was a linguist and first wrote the elvish language and then began to consider who these people would be. However, the truly inspired moment came while grading his students’ work (he was a professor at Oxford) when the opening line of The Hobbit popped into his head: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” He then wondered what a hobbit was like and the rest is history.
After the success of this book, his publishers asked him to write a sequel which turned into a much bigger project. The moment of inspiration came, though, when he realizes the ring (the connecting point between the books) was actually created by Sauron, the evil tyrant they all feared. It struck me that Tolkien seemed to “discover” this world rather than create it.
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This theme seems consistent with those who are creative in any way. I have heard many explain that ideas seem to just come to them. Where exactly do they come from? We know that they come from the true source of creativity–God Himself! When we tune our ears to hear His voice, we will be surprised and delighted by what He shows us. It might not be book ideas, but maybe it could be beautiful images, a new recipe, a person to talk to, a gift to give, or a new way to make the home feel welcoming.
Your Gift to Give
God is still giving. He’s not just giving to those giants of thought and talent though–He gives to all. And, what’s best, just like in the creation of Adam and Eve and the birth of Jesus, the best gifts He gives are still human. The gift He gives us is you. We need you to be who you were created to be and to carve out a small picture of the Gospel of grace. This Christmas, give yourself to those around you–in thought, in deed, and in attention–as an imitation of God who gave His gifts but also gave Himself. This is the best gift you have to offer.