Christmas 1, December 30, 2018
Give Love as a Gift
Text: Colossians 3:12–17
The gifting day has come and gone, you know, last Tuesday. I’m sure many gifts are broken or forgotten already, and we have had our yearly reminder that searching for and deciding on Christmas presents for people can be very stressful. One of the reasons for this stress at the holiday season is if you have bought a present for a special person before, eventually comes a day/year when you run out of ideas. Erica and I have been married 22 years now. That’s 23 Christmases. And I am sure that Erica will tell you I have done better some years than others. Some people say that men are harder to buy gifts for than women. I don’t necessarily think that’s true. It’s easy to shop for me…gift cards for Red Coyote. But we all know the stress that comes from the idea of giving someone the perfect gift. If you are giving a gift to the person you are dating, you are not married yet, fear sets in, and the possibility of rejection and or that he/she thinks the present is lame can be crippling. Trying to give a gift that’s memorable and lasting truly gets harder and harder as the years roll on.
In our text for this Sunday after Christmas, St. Paul gives us a helpful suggestion for giving a gift that’s sure to be a lasting one. Actually, Paul’s words from the Lord are more than helpful, and they’re more than a suggestion. The apostle tells us to Give Love as a Gift.
While picking a gift to give, and sometimes finding and buying that gift, can be quite difficult, receiving gifts is easy—or it should be. Simply to receive the affection and generosity of people in the form of a gift is usually less stressful and sometimes more enjoyable than giving. Now I think we can all agree that that is the opposite of what is often said during the holidays. What is often said during the holidays is: “It’s better to give than to receive.” And I certainly know the feeling of coming up with the perfect gift, giving, it, and the joy of seeing that person’s face light up. One example is when I got Christopher the XBOX One a few years ago. It was the first year he did the kid thing of dropping not at all subtle hints of what he wanted for Christmas. I will always remember the look on his face when he realized he got what he did not think he would get. And then we plugged it in and it was a brick. It didn’t work.
But getting back to this, when we discuss the phrase, “It is better to give than to receive,” one reason people may say that giving is better than receiving is because of where, on whom, that statement is focused. When saying that giving is better than receiving, a person can be more focused on looking at himself or herself as the “giving centerpiece” rather than on the one who is to receive. Saying that is kind of works righteousness, right? Isn’t it usually the “giver” who quotes this? I mean, have you ever gotten a great present, an awesome gift, and then looked at that person who gave it and said to them, “It is better to give…”? I am not saying this is universal. At my age I often have more fun, enjoy, the giving rather than the receiving. There are times we need not to be selfish and think and give to others, but Paul is also reminding us today that there are times that we need to receive.
The gift of forgiveness and salvation, won by the death and resurrection of Jesus, is a free gift, one that comes with no strings attached. This gift is one we receive from Jesus, as Luther said, “without any merit or worthiness in us.” The love of the Savior is an unmatched and tremendous blessing. Therefore, while Paul quotes Jesus in Acts 20:35 as having said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” when it comes to our forgiveness and salvation, we know Jesus is doing all the giving and we are doing all the receiving. Jesus died on a cross and rose again to give to us, so we could receive.
Therefore, when it comes to salvation, faith, forgiveness, eternal life, God is the Giver. When it comes to faith, forgiveness and eternal life, we do no giving. Just receiving. When it comes to all the blessings that God gives, we know it is enjoyable to receive and what God wants us to do. He wants us to receive His gifts. And I’m certain that receiving what He gives is the place where we start with our text for today. We hear clearly in v 12 of the text that we are God’s chosen ones—called by Him and set apart by Him for the purpose of doing His will. “As God’s chosen ones,” Paul says. We are God’s people, and He has made us His. The text continues, telling us that we are beloved and holy people of God: “as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved.” This is no small thing. Since He chose us, we are not alone and living for ourselves. We are His, chosen and called to share His love and compassion. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (v 12). In other words, we should give love.
The text for today now reminds us that we should forgive one another in Christian love: “… and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (vv 12–13). Oftentimes, we are not willing to forgive those who’ve hurt us because it makes us feel better, or we feel they still owe us if we withhold forgiveness. That can make us feel we have the upper hand, power in the relationship. Paul encourages us to see and know that our ability to forgive comes from the reality that we are first forgiven by Jesus Christ in our own lives; we are able to and required to forgive others. This is a good thing, a real, good thing.
Immediately following this encouragement about forgiving, we’re told to put on love: “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (v 14). Now we do not put on love the same way we put on an ugly Christmas sweater or a pink bunny costume. God the Father has covered us, drowned us in His love. His love comes to us in the form of His Son on the cross. Jesus showed His love for us by His dying and rising again for us. We know this because the Word of God reminds us in many places and in many different ways of the love in our lives, which is Jesus. For all Christians, the love of Christ is poured out in Holy Baptism, where you are robed in love. We are to put on that Love, and we are to give Love. Therefore, when it comes to being saved, our souls being saved from hell and going to heaven, God does the giving. We do the receiving. And then having received, we get to give, to share, all those blessings He gives to us. We get to give Love, His Love.
To sum all this up today, I ask you to happily receive what is yours as a gift. Receive it with joy and thankfulness knowing that you are forgiven freely, without a price for you to pay and without worthiness on your part. And know you can give it away, share it, because however much you give away, the amount you have doesn’t change. It stays the same. Go ahead, give love, the love of Jesus. It’s the perfect gift for us to give because Jesus knows it is the perfect gift for you.
In Jesus’ Name.
Adapted from Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 29, Part One.