It’s an honor to write for my friends at Our Focus For Hope on my birthday. Begin reading here and then finish up over there, where you’ll find more thoughts and encouragement!

“This is for Christmas and your birthday.”

I’ve lost count of how many times that phrase has accompanied the neatly wrapped—in either Christmas or birthday paper—package handed to me. I don’t complain much, though, because when I do, my brother is quick to remind me it could be worse. His birthday is on Christmas Eve.

Nonetheless, the birthday-Christmas combo gift is the bane of December birthdays everywhere. Brethren (and sistren?), I feel your pain.

Of course, we’re not the only ones thinking about gifts in December. The month has all of us in the buying mood and dreaming mode, tempted to pick up and shake those boxes under the tree.

But I’m thinking of gifts differently this year. I’m wondering if the idea of a gift is platitude-ized. The idea and very word gift has become far too common to us; in our oft-entitled, consumer-crazed culture of Christmas we don’t spend more than a fleeting thought on it. It simply becomes another word in the cutesy Christmas platitudes:
“Jesus: the gift that keeps on forgiving!”
“The greatest gift wasn’t wrapped in shiny silver paper but in swaddling clothes.”
“The magic of Christmas is not in the presents, but in His presence.”

These clichés may reflect the truth of Christmas, but we hear them so often it’s easy to dismiss the depth of a true gift.

Back to the Basics
When I google my brain—though sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t—for the “gift” file in the “Bible” drawer, I always come to the same verse: Ephesians 2:8-9.

For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

It was one of the very first verses I ever learned as a kid. And, thanks to AWANA, I’ve known it for years. But today, my birthday, that one word—gift—is sticking out to me. And I wondered what kind of gift it’s really talking about here.

We have a few different ways to think about gifts. Of course, we have birthday gifts and Christmas gifts, which are already primed in your mind because it’s December. But we also use the word “gift” to describe a donation or otherwise semi-obligated monetary contribution. And we also use the word to refer to people having talents, as in “he’s so gifted,” or “you have a gift!”

But. This word gift in Ephesians 2:8-9 is specifically talking about…continue reading at Our Focus For Hope

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