Wednesday, March 29, 2006

About Gifts and Gratitude

Every year I buy Christmas gifts just like everyone else does. But I start in July because I want to really think about each friend and get them something they really like. I make mental notes when I hear them say things like "Isn't Starbucks the best? And I love the cookies they have!" The person says it in passing and they forget about it. But I start listening in July and I try to remember what they said they like. And I'm really happy when Christmas comes because I know I'm offering them a gift they'll really like. So I wrap it all up really pretty because I also love getting into arts and crafts. I'll put some kind of hand made decoration on the package to make it special. It's really fun for me. Giving gifts is even better than receiving them usually.
Naturally after I've put all that effort into the giving I'm hoping the recipient really likes it. I watch their eyes to see if they notice the special wrapping I've made. If they don't that's ok because they still get to open the present. But if they open the present while they're talking or if they look at it once and then look away I'm hurt. Or maybe they'll say a reflex kind of thank you. I think to myself, that's ok. Not everyone gets really excited and says "thank you oh thank you!!!" But I do watch in the days and months to come to see if the shirt ever gets worn or if they actually hang the picture I gave or if they're drinking Starbucks coffee. Selfishly I guess I want my work, my efforts to be recognized. That's pride.
A truly humble person isn't like that. They'd really be OK with just the giving. Do you know anyone like that? Sure you do.
He gave till He died - for you. In the agony in the garden He knew what He was going to do for us. It would be the best gift ever. The gift would be Himself. Despite what it cost He would offer us this gift. He was misunderstood, rejected and humiliated. Jesus was betrayed by His friends and abandoned. He was tortured and nailed to the cross. The whole time He was thinking of you. He prayed for you as He walked toward Golgatha. Your face was on His mind as they drove in the nails. His scourged back against the wood, He hung high on the cross just so that you and I could come to heaven with Him and His Father.
But He also knew we'd be ungrateful. Oh sure we'd say thank you and tell Him we love Him but would we live lives of gratitude? Probably not. He knew about our lies, our pride, our self centeredness but He gave His gift anyway. Unlike me, He knew in advance that we wouldn't fully appreciate His death. But He did it anyway. I wouldn't do that, would you? Would you even keep giving Christmas presents to someone who appears ungrateful? Of course not. I don't want to see my friends take the present I gave them and just put it aside or even forget to say thank you. Jesus did a lot more than that. He offered His life KNOWING in advance that we wouldn't be fully grateful.
If we were really grateful we'd live grateful lives. We'd be forever joyful, humble, impressed. We'd always want to give Him something in return. We'd be true Christians and maybe even saints. Instead we're selfish and ungrateful. But God in His mercy still loves us. How great is our God! He was all human but still all giving. He is all knowing but still all loving. Despite our sinfulness and ingratitude Jesus is all merciful. We need to ask for forgiveness from our generous , merciful God! Join me and get on your knees and beg Him to teach us how to be grateful. God offers us eternal life because He is Love and that's what Love does. Pray with me that we live more grateful lives.