Being a fairly typical guy, buying gifts was never really my thing. The thought of having to buy Christmas gifts for people seemed to drain every ounce of life from my body. It was not uncommon for me to buy gifts on the way to our family gift exchange, and then beg my sisters to wrap everything once I got there. One year, I think they were wrapped for a total of four minutes before they were to be opened.
There are so many difficult and stressful questions: What do I buy? What do they even like? How much should I spend on each person? Who can I con into wrapping all of it?
Those questions nearly ruined Christmas for me every year. But something changed for me last year. I was tasked with preaching a message ironically focused on giving the “perfect gift.” (You can see the Keller version of that message HERE.) I think I was the one God wanted to reach that Sunday. My own message served as a powerful reminder to me that Jesus served as God’s perfect gift to us.
We decided, based on what the Bible tells us, that the perfect gift required three things:
- A willingness to sacrifice
Obviously, Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice. Not just in giving His life so that we can truly live ours, but in knowingly and willingly suffering and then dying on the cross. I’d like to think I would lay my life down to save another human being, but I’m pretty sure my confidence level would drop considerably if someone guaranteed me that it would happen tomorrow at 3:15 pm. I’d be looking for the emergency exit if I knew it would involve inhumane torture and a slow, miserable death. I don’t think I would be showing up to that. But Jesus did.
- Going above and beyond
Generosity is measured by how much is left after the act. Jerry Jones giving a homeless man $20 would be nice, but none of us would call it going above and beyond. A 9-year-old boy giving his only $3 to the same homeless man would be seen as extremely generous because he gave it all. There was nothing left when he was done giving. Jesus likewise gave it all. There was simply nothing more he could have given than every second of His life, and then his life itself. God didn’t have to allow it to be that way. He’s God–the Creator of the universe. One third of the reason why Jesus was the perfect gift is because it went way above and beyond what needed to happen.
- Seeking to honor the recipient uniquely
Jesus didn’t die to prove a point, to fight for a random cause, or even to make a statement. He died so that I could have eternal life. He died so that you don’t have to pay what would be an insurmountable debt for your sins. He died so that your kids could live a life not separated from God. I cannot think of a gift more honoring. I cannot imagine a gift more uniquely personal.
With that understanding of just how perfect of a gift-giver God is, I now look forward to buying Christmas gifts for people. Buying a gift is no longer something I have to do, it is something I get to do. Honoring someone with a gift is good for them. Willingly sacrificing and showing generosity is good for me. And it’s good for everyone if I go above and beyond the expectation.
I get it now. Jesus didn’t give Himself for us because he had to. He did it because He wanted us to know how much we are loved by the One who created us.
Maybe one day I will get it to the extent that Allan Law from Minneapolis gets it. If you want to spend five minutes watching an awesome story about a guy who knows what it means to give a gift, go watch his story. Last year, Mr. Law spent his nights handing out over 520,000 sandwiches to the homeless in his city. He has spent every night over the last 12 years on the streets and yet he claims that he is the lucky one for having the privilege to hand out those sandwiches to people who need them.
He sleeps only three to four hours a night, sacrificing to serve others. He goes above and beyond by using his own house as the assembly point. (I can’t even imagine what my electric bill would be if I had 17 refrigerators like Mr. Law does.) He also uniquely honors them by doing his distributions at night simply because public services are no longer open.
I challenge each of you, beginning this year, to be “perfect gift” givers–going above and beyond, willingly sacrificing a part of yourself, and uniquely honoring each person God has given you the privilege of showing His love to.