Monday, November 30, 2009

The Ultimate Gift Exchange

As you know, I've been on hiatus from LINGER for some time now. Nearly six months actually. I apologize to each of you, my friends, as I disappeared without much warning. Truth be told, last Spring, after I shared with you that I would be working on LINGER (the book), I was entering another season of Graves disease, a hyperthyroid autoimmune condition that wreaks havoc with both the mind (no focus, lack of concentration, racing mind etc...) and body. I won't go into further detail, I only ask you to forgive me for not sharing this with you sooner. I'm doing much better, as the thyroid medication is balanced for now. I would appreciate SO MUCH your prayers that I would go into complete remission.

And in the meantime, I offer this as a token of shared faith with you. If you don't know Him... May I introduce you to my Father? And meet His Son, Jesus, the best gift exchange giver of all time...

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

2 Corinthians 9:15 (NIV)

Grace. A gift given by our Lord in the ultimate gift exchange. One man, one life, in exchange for all of humanity’s sake.

Ponder the idea, for a few moments, the process of the “gift exchange.” Normally, when we’re invited to a holiday celebration or gathering, our host asks each of us to bring gifts of a certain equal value. So we joyfully venture into the mass of holiday shoppers and scavenge the aisles for nicest possible treasure within our prearranged price range. When we find just the right one, we wait in line, along with the throngs of weary Christmas shoppers.

And finally, we hear those nostalgic words, “Register number seven is open. Please continue to register number 7.” So, we carry our gift to the appointed clerk (whose bewildered face is telltale of his/her day). Of course, the scanner won’t receive the number on the tag, because the tag is ragged from a tear. It seems our treasure was once in the hands of a careless gift-giver whose change of mind landed the trinket back onto the shelf we found it upon. No wonder our treasure was calling from a shelf full of dry goods rather than a shelf full of similar lovelies.

Suddenly (and loudly), our clerk calls for a price check and what do we do? We duck, of course. Our line has been slowed to a snail’s pace because we didn’t check the complete worth of our gift before slipping into place (it reads, $11.9… and that’s the part that’s missing). Worn out shoppers still waiting behind us, sigh in dread. Their collective groan gives us pause in the middle of our joyful task and we sigh along with them.

Beaten down, we finally emerge from the store with our treasure, wondering if our holiday happiness will ever reappear. Must we start all over again? Or can we catch the season-sentimentality from this point forward—as if it never left? We shut the car door behind us, turn the key and meander out of the crowded parking lot. Maybe some Christmas music will help. Slowly, our seasonal spirit begins to rise in our hearts.

We arrive home and hunt for last season’s Christmas paper (we haven’t had the chance to buy this year’s yet). We hum a holiday tune as we tape the paper closed. No one peeks this year. And we smile in delight as we disguise our handwriting on the gift card. It is a secret after all, right?

The day of our gathering arrives. All is well, our holiday joy firmly in place. Hot cider warms our hands as we wrap them around our Christmas mugs. Songs of “Jingle Bells” and “Let It Snow” fill the room and we mingle with old friends and cheerfully meet new ones.

The process of the gift exchange comes to a close as the celebration ends, and we drive home with new treasures of a certain equal value.

And we do it all over again next year…

Grace. A gift given by our Lord in the ultimate gift exchange. One man, one life, in exchange for all of humanity’s sake.

So different, my Lord, from Your idea of the ultimate gift exchange. You gave Your All… First, You exchanged Your home in Heaven—Your Throne—to be born of a common, yet extraordinary young woman. Her betrothed had not yet known her, as this Child was Your Son. You grew into a gentle man, full of LOVE for hmanity—Your creation. You healed, You loved, You taught, and You asked nothing in return. You only gave. And gave.

And then You GAVE…

You gave for ALL asking nothing in return... for the moment.

Your humanity bled out of Your body as You offered Your life—Your LIFE, so that we may receive eternal life; grace—life with You, forever and ever.

And You seek only our humble lives in return. Hardly of certain equal value. Yet it is all You require. All You desire.

Here it is, LORD. Yes, my life in exchange for Yours. I don’t understand. I never will. But I’m eternally grateful to be able to participate in this gift exchange. Hardly worthy, but just as I am, LORD. All.