Aspen loves presents. After Christmas she starts planning what she wants for her birthday in August and after her birthday she starts planning the gifts she wants for Christmas. Then of course there are the gifts she wants every time we go to the store. It is a never ending desire for more gifts from her dear loving parents who desire what is best for her, which occasionally includes not buying a gift every time we go to the store. Jesus said we should become as little children. God’s gifts to us are free. While God’s gifts are free, action is required to receive them.
Aspen looks forward with much anticipation to her birthday and Christmas. As a parent I also look forward to the moment when she can open the gifts we bought for her. We love the excitement she expresses over the things we have given her. Most little kids on their birthday or Christmas eagerly accept their gifts and tear them open, excited to play with their new toys. They don’t ask how many dishes they need to wash first or how much tv they should give up before they are allowed to open their presents. They don’t stop before opening each gift and consider the possibility they may not like it, or the possibility they may not want what’s under the brightly colored wrapping paper, they assume every gift is something they will love. They seem to never tire of opening presents and when they come to the end of the pile they are disappointed and want more.
Love is a gift. We receive love, we give love. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. And the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves. God gave us love, we are to give it back to him and also to give it to others. There’s plenty of talk about love. But talk is cheap as the saying goes and the actual loving of others is expensive. It costs us to love others as much as ourselves. 1 John 3:18 tell us to love not just in word and talk but in deed and truth. God’s truth in Matthew 5:43 says, “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..” I don’t know about you but I have a hard time loving someone who has cut me off in traffic, nevermind someone who has actually persecuted me. Loving someone who is unloveable whether they cut me off in traffic or told a lie about me at work or are just rude in general hurts. It usually hurts bad enough we come up with really good excuses not to love them. But, Jesus loves them and we are to follow his example. The painful part of loving our neighbors as much as we love ourselves is we have to give up our pride to do it. Our pride says, “How dare they treat me with such disrepsect? I deserve better treatment than that.” But Jesus came to this world to show people the love of his father in heaven and we, as Christians, are called to do the same.
Little children love to open gifts. Let us become as little children and be as excited about opening the gift of God’s love for us and others as little kids tearing open gifts on Christmas morning. Let’s not hesitate and wonder if we really want it or wonder how many good works we need to do to have it. Let’s rip it open with great anticipation and enjoy using the gift of love God has wrapped up for us.