The Fathers Gift
God Didn’t Give a White Elephant Gift for Christmas
Recently I received an invitation to a Christmas party where we were to bring a white elephant gift.
You know what a white elephant gift is, don’t you? Something cheap or weird that you own because someone gave it to you, or because you actually bought it during a time you had taken leave of your senses.
You know what I’m talking about - pink flamingo boxer shorts, fluorescent socks, coffee cups honoring the inventors of Post-it notes or Velcro, anything from Ronco or K-tel - you know what I’m saying.
Well, white elephant gifts have the same purpose as most fruitcakes: to get rid of them! The goal is to give it to some unsuspecting soul.
A white elephant gift is a 2nd or 3rd rate gift. An outcast gift. A thrift store reject. Usually they are given as a joke at those Christmas parties for the office and such. Sometimes they are given, because, quite frankly, you can’t afford a "real" gift, so you give something like that hoping the humor of the situation will cover your inability to get something on a more expensive scale.
God gives different kinds of gifts.
What are some of God’s gifts to us? Let’s just review some of them in a sample list, okay?
* Eternal life.
Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
John 14:27 - Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
* Grace and faith for salvation.
Ephesians 2:8-9 - For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
* Wisdom for the trials of life.
James 1:5 - If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
* Daily provision for needs.
Matthew 6:31-33 - So do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
* Other blessings.
John 1:16 - From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.
God has a way of giving.
* His gifts are good.
Listen to James 1:17 -
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Question: do any of these gifts we looked at earlier qualify as a white elephant gift? I don’t think so. They’re good gifts. Worth having and worth desiring from the hand of God.
* His gifts are generous.
Ephesians 1:3 -
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
He makes us heirs, not with Bill Gates or the Rockefellers, but with Christ. Now how’s that for thinking big?
The point here is that if we want to reflect God’s gift-giving pattern, we need to think not of "What can I get away with?" But rather, "How can I bless this person?"
*His motivation for giving is love.
It’s ironic during a time when we are in more of giving mood, we often find ourselves with the dilemma of giving something to someone out of obligation instead of a desire to bless that person.
Did you realize that God does not have to give us gifts? We don’t deserve them. If we deserved gifts, they wouldn’t be gifts, they would be wages.
A real gift is something given out of a desire to bless the person receiving the gift, not out of obligation.
Scripture contains about 330 references to blessing, and over 300 of those refer to God blessing His people.
And what is his motivation for showering His people with blessing? The bottom line is His love. His love for each and every one of us, for the whole world.
John 3:16-17 -
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."
The Father loves to give to His children.
Think about that for a minute. Why do we give gifts to our family at Christmas? Yes, there is tradition, but the bottom line is our desire to see our kids’ face light up when they open the gift to find something they like, right?
And it breaks our hearts when we can’t do it as well as we like.
He wants to bless us. He wants to give us gifts. He wants to shower His love on us!
Jesus mentions that even evil fathers know how to give good gifts to their children, and how much more does our Heavenly Father desire to give good gifts us!
That’s not a promise for material wealth, but for His provision of everything we need to live in Him and for Him.
What a great God we have! He loves us and it drives Him to bless us with countless gifts.
Have any of you either read the book or seen the movie, Mommy Dearest? It chronicles the bitter relationship between Christine Crawford and her mother, actress Joan Crawford.
One of the most memorable parts of both the book and movie is where a film crew is at the their house when Christine was young.
Joan was already a famous movie star, and this crew was there to interview Joan, her husband, and the kids about their Christmas celebration.
When the interviewer asked Joan about the children opening the gifts given by their parents and adoring fans, the answer was shocking, at least to me.
She said that the children had to earn the gifts before they could receive them.
Doesn’t sound much like a gift, does it? I’m sure the gifts themselves were enjoyable, but the thought of earning a gift kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? I think so.
And requiring someone to earn their gifts certainly doesn’t reflect the character of God.
1. Receive the gift of God for yourself.
I mentioned John 3:16-17 earlier:
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."
God gave us His Son so He could give us eternal life. The Bible tells us that eternal life is a free gift from God.
But you know what? There’s something interesting about a gift, not only is it not earned, it is also not automatic.
What do I mean by that?
For a gift to really matter to the person it is intended for, it has to be received by that person, and that person has to take possession of it.
It cannot be earned. No amount of good works will do it. Think of the most awesome person in the world who has done the most good, in your opinion.
Can you think of someone? I can. In fact, I can think of a number of people in a number of different fields, and some are not even Christians.
But the question is this: does all their good get them to heaven? Not according to God, and since he’s the one who makes the decision, then we need to listen to him.
The Bible says that all our personal righteousness, all the goodness that we have and do on our own, is nothing but filthy rags to God, and they don’t get us to heaven.
Earlier we read Ephesians 2:8-9.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast.
Only the person who has received the gift of Jesus gets to heaven. If a person could earn his way to heaven, then the death of Jesus was unnecessary, and the words of Jesus were worthless.
But here’s the bottom line: The Bible says that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son of God does not have life. It’s that simple. You either have Him or you don’t.
Jesus says that those who don’t believe in him are condemned. But the good news is that he came so we could spend eternity in heaven.
Have you received God’s best gift? If not, won’t you open your heart today and ask Him to give it to you? It’s yours for the asking.
The Bible says that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved, and that means you, and it means me.
2. Offer the gift of God to others.
Why would I spend time talking about the way God gives gifts? Not just because it’s Christmas time, because God’s gift-giving isn’t limited to Christmas.
It’s because I’m of the opinion that we should imitate the gift-giving of God in our own lives.
Give different kinds of gifts, give good gifts, give as generously as you can, motivated by love for people.
You might not be able to afford fancy gifts for people. And that’s okay. The issue for us isn’t the price tag. The issue is that we reflect the love of God to people.
I want you to think back to the introduction where I asked you to think of something you hold dear, and how you would react if the person whose name you had drawn wanted that very thing.
I said that that person had hurt you before, had neglected or even stolen from you. Remember?
Folks, hold onto your hat, here, because I need to tell you that each one of us is that person.
WE have sinned against God Almighty. WE have turned our backs on Him. WE have lied to Him. We have cheated and stolen.
God didn’t give a white elephant gift. He gave us the very best he had to offer - to sinners like you and me.
And so why not look for opportunities over the next couple weeks to talk to someone about how they can have the free gift of forgiveness and a home in heaven?
Not out of obligation, but out of love for God and love for those God loves - everyone.