Presents and Gifts ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI


What you are is God’s gift to you.

What you become is your gift to God.

We have survived Black Friday and made it through Cyber Monday!!!!!  As always at this time of the year, our thoughts turn to gifts: giving and receiving, what we want to give, what we want to receive, what will please those we love, the shopping, the ordering, the wrapping, the general hustle and bustle of the Christmas season centering around gifts ad infinitum, donating to the people with the red kettles and bells so the less fortunate can have gifts…..

And then there’s the practice of ‘re-gifting,’  passing along that unwanted or unusable gift that we were given, to someone else, so that they will have SOMETHING, and so that they too, can possibly pass that pink and orange and green plaid scarf along, re-gifting it themselves to someone else who won’t use it either….and sometimes by some freak chance that unwanted item comes back to us several years later….and not much too worse for the wear….  And is re-gifting, as amusing (and cheap) as it may seem, necessarily a bad thing?

Why all this focus on gift-giving and gift-receiving at this time of year?  The union of Christmas and gift giving was a gradual one; actually, the full story of the bright packages beneath the tree, like most of our Christmas customs, begins in the days before the birth of Christ.  In ancient Rome, gifts were exchanged during the New Year’s celebrations. At first these gifts were simple, such as a few twigs from a sacred grove and small items of food. Many gifts were in the form of vegetables in honor of the fertility goddess Strenia. During the Northern European Yule, (yep, the yuletide season is a pagan thing) fertility was celebrated with gifts made of wheat products, such as bread and alcohol.

Like many of the old and pagan customs, exchanging gifts was difficult to get rid of even as Christianity spread and gained official status. Early church leaders tried to outlaw the custom, but the people cherished it too much to let it go.  St. John Chrysostom urged no compromise with heathen abominations, but he, too, failed in this tenacity of hanging on to the tradition of gift giving.  Since there was no general agreement about the exact date of the birth of Jesus, it must have seemed helpful to have it supersede the Saturnalia, so the rebirth of the sun became instead the birth of the Son of God, and the church leaders looked for a Christian justification for the practice of all this gift giving. This justification was found in the Magi’s act of bearing gifts to the infant Jesus, and in the concept that Christ was a gift from God to the world, bringing in turn the gift of redemption and everlasting life.

What you are is God’s gift to you.

What you become is your gift to God.

Wikipedia defines a gift as the transfer of something without the expectation of receiving something in return. Although gift-giving might involve an expectation of reciprocity, a gift is meant to be free. By extension the term “gift” can refer to anything that makes the other happier or less sad, especially as a favor, including forgiveness and kindness.

God’s gifts to us are free and clear.  He has given us the gift of His Son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.       He has given us the gift of eternal life:  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (NIV);  The gift of salvation:  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8 (NIV);  And the gifts that are unique to each of us:   “We each of us have our own individual gifts:  But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” 1Corinthians 7:7 (NIV)

Besides the obvious gift of His Son, and the forgiveness that we receive through Him whom we receive by faith, what other gifts has God given specifically to you?  What talents have you received?  What blessings have been given to you?

We learn about the 7 Gifts of the Spirit in Isaiah 11:2-3:  “2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD— 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;” (NIV)

And more importantly, what are you doing with those gifts?  What are you giving back to God?  What are you “becoming” as you use your gifts and talents?  Which of the gifts that you have been given are you “regifting?”  In other words, when we’ve received a gift from God, do we share that gift with others?  Do we “regift?”  We are told in 1 Peter 4:10, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (NIV)  Jesus himself addresses this very thing in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30.  By using our gifts, they multiply and we bring others to know God, and by recognizing what we have been given and using them for God’s glory, we are giving back to God.

What is the most precious thing we can give to God?  The most precious gift we can give is what God wants the most. God wants us to make the fervent attempt to repent, get right with Him, and not lead a double life, trying to follow two contradictory paths, but living our lives according to His will.  God simply wants us to give ourselves to Him.  This is the best gift we can give!   Our gift to Him is how we respond to the gifts He has given us which are the gifts of life and of grace. We can best do this when we are headed in His direction, following His precepts with a grateful, willing heart and mindset, and by striving to be the best that we can be by becoming what it is that He wants us to be.

Barbara Streisand sings in “The Best Gift:”

The best gift
That I ever got
Didn’t really weigh a lot
It didn’t have a ribbon ’round
And it sometimes made a terrible sound
The best of all it seems to me
It wasn’t ‘neath the Christmas tree
And yet, I guess I’d have to say
That it made all the other presents twice as gay
The best gift that I’ve ever known
I’d always wanted most to own
Yet in my dreams of sugar and spice
I never thought it could be so nice
The best gift that I ever get
Was sometimes dry and sometimes wet
Was usually pink but oftentimes red
As it lay so innocently in it’s bed
The best gift of the year to me
The one I hold most dear to me
A gift that simply drove me wild
Was a tiny new born child…


As we celebrate the birth of THE tiny newborn Child, God’s greatest and best Gift to us, let us strive to make ourselves the best gift we can give to others, and to God.  Amen.







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