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Two Kinds of Gift Giving

by Dan Cruver Published Dec 12, 2012

Miroslav Volf:

Consider the true gift we celebrate at Christmas, God’s advent into the world. Here is how the apostle Paul told the story of Christmas: “For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become Free of Charge-Giving and Forgivingrich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). The Son of God did not dwell among humans just to open our vista onto the circle of blissful exchanges within the Godhead. He divested himself of heavenly wealth and became an impoverished child so the fragile flesh of humanity could be taken up into God’s embrace. The circle of the Eternal Intimates opened up, and gifts traversed its boundaries to reach those in need.

Our gifts [at Christmas] shouldn’t just travel on a two-way street so givers and receivers can delight in one another; they should travel on a one-way street so that the needy may be helped, being imparted to those who may not be able to give in return.

At Christmas we should celebrate two kinds of gift giving, not just one. Christmas should be a feast of reciprocal giving in a circle of intimates, a provisional enactment of the advent of God’s future world. But it should also be a feast of giving to those outside the circle, a small contribution helping to align the world of sin and need with the coming world of love. The advent of the light into the darkness of the world is not the goal; it is part of the movement toward the goal. At Christmas we celebrate this movement. Gifts should therefore chiefly flow out to the needy; they shouldn’t largely circulate among friends (Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace, 75).


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