West Franklin Family,
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Presents.
What do you get the person who has everything? What to get your nieces and nephews you see maybe once a year? What to get your estranged sibling? The coworker you barely know whose name you drew for the office party? An envelope with cash? A gift card? Clothes? How much to spend on each? What about your kids’ friends who get your children something? What if you give your spouse something cheap and they get you something really nice and expensive? What about that special someone you haven’t known for very long? Something nice? Something small? Something that says, “I like you, but don’t want to overwhelm you?” What about the “dirty Santa” gift? What’s too risque? If you go overboard, will people judge you? If you go bland, will people judge you?
And how do you respond to the person who gives you something that you hate? Or gives you something and you don’t know what it is? Or gives you something you already have? Fake it? Be honest? Pray the store will take it back for cash? What about the neighbor who drops something by unexpectedly? Do you now have to go shop for them? Will you be considered the Scrooge Neighbor on the street if you don’t give in exchange?
Like I said – it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
In a recent article I read entitled “I Hate Presents,” Sarah Wilson wrote the following. . . consider:
“One year I found the perfect Christmas gift for a friend—this was when I was already well into my twenties. I was so incredibly pleased at finding something so perfect that, frankly, I lorded it over her. I spent all of December telling her how much she was gonna love it. She probably would have, if I hadn’t persecuted her with such pressure to be amazed. Or if, in understandable panic, she hadn’t picked out for me such a wildly inappropriate gift that it left both of us speechless in our embarrassment.
That was my introduction to how the demand for gratitude becomes its own tool of abuse…I have counted hours and days and weeks for an acknowledgement of a gift that I thought was a showstopper. I have barely concealed disgust at lackluster utterances of appreciation. I have self-righteously sided with Jesus in indignation at the nine lepers who never got around to thanking him, without noticing that Jesus didn’t revoke the cure, or chase the lepers down, or even remind them to say thank you — he just let them go.
And of course, at the exact same time, I’ve failed to say thank-you’s of my own and resented the burden of gratitude placed on me by others. Because if you’re going to be self-righteous, you may as well be a hypocrite, too.
How did it all go so horribly wrong?
Well, without denying the all-too-obvious answer of “sin,” I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem with presents is that they’re no longer free and no longer gifts. Presents have become a law. And nothing wrecks a gift faster than making a law of out of it.”
Ouch. Like I said – it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Wilson continues, “For the exact same reasons, I hate presents and the fake solution of wish lists on the giving end as much as the receiving end, because the result is not anyone’s openness to receiving from me personally (even without the obnoxious lording-it-over), but trying to eliminate any surprise by turning the present into a legal contract. That’s the whole point of laws, after all: no surprises. So altogether, by now, most gifts exchanged are not really gifts. And coming on cue, at Christmas or birthdays, they have this cringing sense of obligation about them on the side of both the giver and the recipient. But trying to break out of the legal obligation of gift-giving is just about as acceptable as breaking any other law. Trust me — I’ve tried. It didn’t go over well.”
How could something that is intended to be so wonderful turn into a difficult and tense and awkward and burdensome obligation? How could something such as presents and gift-giving turn into a law? A gift is free and intended to cause the recipient to be shocked in amazement. A gift given is supposed to cause sheer delight in the one giving the supposed “free” gift. The purpose of presents is to generously and graciously cause shock and awe and amazement. No wonder Jesus wants us to be like little children. Wilson says we have tried to “eliminate any surprise by turning the present into a legal contract.” Sigh. May it not be.
The obvious reason I share this today, West Franklin, is because it’s that time – the most wonderful time of the year. But here’s the deeper, real reason: let me encourage you to give a present to at least one person this year who is not expecting it. Go overboard. If you are able, be lavish. Be thoughtful. Be generous. Be gaudy. Don’t tell ’em it’s coming. Don’t “lord” it over them that you are going to blow them away. Get the gift and then shock them with it when they least expect it.
To remind your soul of the extravagant brilliance and beauty of the gift that is the Gospel. Do unto others as you have had done unto you. Our Father graciously shocks us with Jesus – over and over and over and over. When we least expect it. When we least deserve it. When we don’t understand why. And, He expects nothing in return. His present(s) come with no strings attached. No law. No obligation. No contract. Just free gift.
Over two thousand years ago a present was given to the world when we weren’t even looking for it. When we least deserved it. When we weren’t even asking. God gave Jesus – not to get something back in return. But because He loves and delights to shock us with grace.
What present can you give to someone this Christmas that will remind you of the sheer brilliance of the Gospel?
Let heaven and nature sing,
Today and Tomorrow: Dickens of a Christmas in Downtown Franklin – Stop by the tent in the main square and say hello!
Tomorrow at WF: 8 am service (choir room) and 9 and 10:30 am services in the Fellowship Hall.
After each service, we will give you an opportunity to write a prayer and/or a verse of Scripture on the floor in the Worship Center.
We will ordain two new deacons in both the the 9 and 10:30 am worship services.
Christmas Food Project items due tomorrow!
Christmas Eve Services: 11 am, 1, 3, and 5 pm. RSVP Here.