Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Good and Perfect Gifts

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

                        James 1.17

Giver’s Remorse

There’s a howlingly funny bit in John Waters’ tasteless camp classic, Female Trouble. It’s Christmas morning and Dawn Davenport (played by the 300-pound drag legend, Divine) thunders downstairs to tear into her presents. She burrows through the pile to retrieve what is obviously a shoebox and claws into the wrapping to lay hands on her most anticipated gift. Her giddiness sours into rage when she opens the box. “What are these?” she bellows. “These aren’t the right kind! I told you cha-cha heels—black ones!” Her father protests, “Nice girls don’t wear cha-cha heels.” But Dawn hears none of it. She flies into a flailing rampage, spewing obscenities, knocking down the tree and her mother with it. As she storms into the street in her teddy and fuzzy slippers, her flabbergasted dad pleads, “Not on Christmas! Not on Christmas!”

I’ll go out on a limb and guess none of us has witnessed a display of Christmas ingratitude remotely like Dawn’s—at least, I hope not. But I also imagine we’ve lived through an awkward moment or two when our gift received weak, perhaps feigned, enthusiasm. When it comes to feeling inadequate, few emotions beat giver’s remorse. Disappointment descends with a thud. We’re disappointed the recipient isn’t pleased. More than that, though, we’re disappointed we didn’t come up with something better or misjudged how good the gift was.

Just What We Need

Every gift God gives, James says, is good and perfect. Yet His ability to give us the best and flawless judgment of His gifts’ value don’t always spare Him from giver’s remorse. Often we’re like Dawn Davenport—so determined to get what we want we throw a tantrum when we’re given just what we need. “This isn’t what I asked for!” we cry. Sometimes we’re so angry when God provides something other than what our vain ambitions crave we head for the door to get as far as we can from Him. Not only is this rank ingratitude, it’s ridiculously naïve. “Don’t be deceived,” James warns prior to reminding us of God’s infallibility to give only good and perfect things. He defines goodness and perfection, so they’re what He gives. His gifts never vary in quality either, as no variance exists in Him. “He doesn’t change like shifting shadows.” If we’re displeased with God’s gifts, it’s time to identify how we’ve changed, what’s different about our desires and ambitions, and where we lost our way.

Resume the Position

James continues: “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” (v18) “The word of truth” clearly refers to Jesus, Who began His valedictory lesson to the disciples by telling Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14.6) The birth of Christ we celebrate tonight and tomorrow was God’s delivery channel to give us birth. His birthday is our birthday. And like Him, we have been born to resume the position at the forefront of all creation. Through Jesus, God has given us the means, truth, and life to lead others to Him. It’s the first gift He gives us, our first birthday gift. It’s as good and perfect as anything we’ll ever receive. We should accept it, treasure it, and—especially at this time of gift giving—thank Him for it with all of our heart.

May we all have a blessed, joyous, and peaceful Christmas as we celebrate God's best, most perfect Gift!

(Tomorrow: Why Christmas)


Les said...

Happy Christmas, mate.

Tim said...

Les, how wonderful to hear from you! You've been on my mind lately and I've just not been able to stop the madness long enough to write a thoughtful note to see how you're doing.

Tomorrow, after tonight's guests wander off into the cold, I'm going to treat myself to catching up with you via the blog.

In the meantime, have a happy, blessed Christmas.