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Gifts Of Love

Gifts Of Love December 24, 2021

Nina-no: The Magi Bearing Gifts Mosaic At The Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy /Wikimedia Commons

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

The birth of Christ is celebrated around the world with people giving gifts to each other. Those gifts do not have to be material goods, for many, such as children, give of themselves to their loved ones, promising some deed or another which they think will make their loved one happy. Indeed, the best gifts always come out of love as the giver tries to give the best gift they can; when they do so, it is the attention to detail, the desire to give something special, which is most appreciated (and often, it is also what is remembered, long after the gift itself is no more). It is this which makes the giving of gifts appropriate as a way to celebrate the birth of Christ, for we learn in the process that it is better to give out of love than it is to seek something for ourselves. We learn to think of others and their needs, to take them into consideration more than our own petty desires. That is, not only do we learn a little of what it means to act out of love, we put that learning into practice. We find out that the more we love, the more we act for the sake of others, the happier we become. We learn that we are happiest when we live our lives in pursuit of love, when we reject all our selfish inclinations and work to make the lives of others better. The more we die to the self and give what we have to others, we find ourselves paradoxically becoming happier, while when we seek only to fulfill our own inordinate desires, we find their fulfillment never satisfies and we become more and more miserable over time.

The foundation for our celebration of Christmas, that is, the foundation for our giving gifts to each other, of course, likes with the greatest gift of all, the gift of the incarnation, where God’s love is revealed to all: [1]

But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,  to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir (Gal. 4:4-7 RSV).

As the incarnation is also the greatest gift, it was established in and through the greatest amount of thought and preparation. The incarnation was the intention of creation. By creating the world, and giving it a history, God did all that was needed in order to prepare for the incarnation, to prepare for the greatest of all gifts, the gift of Christ.  We find that gift, the gift of Christ in the incarnation, not only brings salvation to the world, but deifying grace as well. All created things were given existence in such a way that they could and should find their proper place in the divine life, in the midst of the love which is God.

The gift of creation is incomplete without the incarnation, for the incarnation was a part of that gift. That means, in history, the time before the incarnation is a time in which the gift of creation itself was incomplete. It could come to completion only after the incarnation took place. We might see a paradox involved in this, for we are a part of creation, and so a part of the gift, but we also are the ones who receive that gift; how is this possible? Because, creation can be seen as the gift of the persons of the Trinity to each other; they share with each other the joy of creation and its integration in the divine life. In this way, we are a part of the gift. But we must remember, we are persons in our own right. We are not mere instruments  We are given our own being, our own existence, our own good, and we find that good is a gift, but that gift is itself incomplete without the gift of Christ, without the gift of grace given to us in the incarnation, and with it, our inclusion into the divine life.  And so, for us, that is the gift which we needed, the gift which is given to us in the incarnation. With that gift we find ourselves joining in the act of love which permeates the divine life. We find that we act out of live, giving ourselves to each other and to God, receiving the love of each other, and of God, in return.

The giving of gifts on Christian reflects, in its ow way, the love of the Trinity, the love which the persons of the Trinity give to each other in and through the establishment of the gift of creation. The incarnation is the final element of that gift, for in and through it, creation is united with God and able to truly find its place in the kingdom of God, in the divine life. We all are given a measure of Christ’s gift (cf. Eph. 4:7), so that we can integrate ourselves into the divine life, to give ourselves over to God as gifts of love and receive, in return, the love of God. Christ is at the heart of this as Christ is both creator and creature, so that in and through the incarnation, the exchange of gifts is made truly possible. This is because in the incarnation, we find the creator and creation embracing each other in such a way as to become one.


[1] Of course, we are also imitating the Magi who came to Jesus giving gifts in honor of his birth. “When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy;  and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Matt. 2:10-11 RSV). The example of the Magi helps us understand that we can and should exchange material gifts in honor of the nativity of Christ. After all, if we are able to discern the presence of Christ in all,  we find that giving gifts to each other is also a way to give gifts to Christ.

 

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