Yesterday’s liturgy marked the official end of our Christmas season. What was the best gift you received this year? I was lucky to get a Fitbit® and I’ve been having so much fun with it. Since December 26 I’ve walked the equivalent of 70 miles. Hard to believe, but a great feeling! As I watched my boys happily examining their Christmas bounty, it got me thinking about gifts from my own childhood. The one that sticks in my mind is from 1978. All year I wished and hoped for the “Pretty Changes” Barbie doll. She had a series of hair extensions, hats, and accessories allowing you to change her look from day-to-day. I was filled with joy to find her under the Christmas tree, and she was by far the best gift I got that year.
Several months later, in a minor tussle with my older sister, my doll’s head broke off. Feeling awful, my sister valiantly tried to glue it back on, but didn’t quite get it on straight. As a result, my Barbie had a thick and stubby neck, and permanently looked smugly off to the side, never meeting the gaze of her Barbie doll friends.
I lost my enthusiasm to play with “Pretty Changes” after that. She was broken…and I had no use for broken things.
Now at Christmas time I think about another broken body, and what it means to all of us. The broken body of Jesus. God’s sending Jesus to suffer and die a brutal death was an act of profound love. A love without tests or conditions. A love that is perfect and selfless. Beginning with the Christmas story, we celebrate this love in the breaking of the bread each time we gather for Eucharist.
God’s love isn’t something we receive only if we deserve it. It’s a GIFT freely given.
God’s mercy isn’t something we have to earn. It’s a GIFT freely given.
God’s grace isn’t something we have to work for. It’s a GIFT freely given.
When a child is born, parents experience a new and deeper kind of love – a love that consumes their entire being. This is but a fraction of the love God has for us. I got a Christmas card a few years ago. On the front of the card was a picture of the sweet and cuddly Baby Jesus. On the inside was a picture of the broken body of Jesus on the cross… crown of thorns on his head and nails piercing his hands and feet. Broken and beautiful. The inscription read: “Jesus was God’s most extravagant gift.”
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16)
As we move into January, all ornaments, garland, and glittery baubles are safely packed away for another year. What remains is the GIFT. The first and greatest gift any of us will ever receive.
How will you use that gift?