Blog Post by
Rev. Ryan Landino, Presbytery Leader
It took me a long time before I really appreciated the significance of the meaning behind receiving a gift.
We all remember receiving good gifts and bad gifts, unexpected gifts, and gifts-meant-to-be-a-surprise-but-you-figured-it-out-anyway gifts. Gifts ranging from wrapped things you tear open to gift cards to the gift of just being present.
I don’t remember exactly when it clicked for me when I realized how much a physical gift can be a wordless expression about the relationship between giver and receiver. But I came to value how a gift has the power to say to someone who you are, who THEY are, and who you are together. It says “I want you to have this thing” and let the gift tell the story of why. It’s why receiving a “regift” from someone who thinks they could pull it off without you knowing it was a regift falls flat. It’s why terrible gifts are so confusing. “Wait. Is THIS who I am? Who do you actually think I am?”
It’s not the bad gifts that taught me the value of gifts, but the good ones that are good by virtue of simply reminding you that you are known. At our staff office gift exchange, Janice got me a portable fan that connects to my laptop, because she knows how much I like to stay cool (and should keep my hands off the thermostat, probably, haha). She also got me a portable tabletop game of cornhole that will definitely be used by myself and/or the staff at future staff meetings, which I received as an excellent reminder to keep things fun!
It’s good to be known, and to receive a gift as a celebration of BEING known.
The most vivid example of gifts specifically intended to express who someone is are the gifts fresh in our mind in the coming weeks: gold, frankincense, and myrrh, part of the Epiphany story that is often folded into the story of Christmas. These gifts from the Wisemen of the East proclaim significant truths about who they believe the Christ child is: wealth for a king, a purifying agent for a priest, and a funeral incense for an anticipated martyr. There is funny meme I often seen around this time of year about how these gifts miss the mark for not including diapers. This joke follows the same logic about knowing and being known: only this time with consideration for Mary. (Especially for new mothers—it’s good to be known!)
So as we reach the homestretch of Advent and near Christmas, what does it say about who we are, and who we are to God, when God’s greatest gift to us…is God’s very gift of self?
What does the gift of the incarnation mean to say about the receiver? About the Giver? About the relationship shared? What does it say about us, when the Giver IS the Gift? This is the power for me of the gift of Christmas, the definitive statement about WHO we are and WHOSE we are. It’s something we perhaps wouldn’t need to be reminded of so often, if only we didn’t so often forget.
Even as you may struggle with last minute Christmas gift shopping this week, or may be second-guessing what gifts you are giving or anticipating getting (or NOT giving or getting), remember that the greatest gift ever given is the gift of God already given for YOU, a gift to you, on account of you, and also ABOUT you. An expression that you are worthy of receiving God’s fullness, for free, unearned, and completely utterly worthy of celebration. It is good to be known.
May you this Christmas feel known and seen, as worthy of the gift of incarnation.
From the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy, have a very Merry Christmas!
Rev. Ryan J. Landino
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
Ryan will be on vacation from 12/19-12/24, and then the office will be closed until the New Year. He is looking forward to continuing with our work together in 2023