The man stood in line, awaiting his turn, and none too patiently at that. He was growing impatient, awaiting his opportunity to return a particular Christmas gift that he did not want. What made the giver think that he would want such a ridiculous gift anyway?
So, there he was package in hand, a package destined to join the one in every ten Christmas gifts that are returned each season within a day or two after Christmas, growing a little more than irritated that the giver of the gift should have caused him so much trouble. After all, why shouldn’t the giver have don what most of us do and just give a gift card—or better yet—the universal gift certificate in cash, or check. “I could have gone through the drive through at the bank and been handsomely on my way within five minutes. And I could have used the cash to get something I really wanted, instead of this useless gift.
“Next!” The customer service person called wearily.
Approaching, he began, “I am here to return this gift.”
“Why? What’s wrong with it?” inquired the customer service person with a somewhat artificial smile.
“Well, I really don’t want this gift, so I am here to return it. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with it, I haven’t even opened the package and the wrapping is intact. You can restock it and maybe someone else will want it.”
The counter customer service person smiled as best she could and said, “I am sorry, but it is our policy that we do not accept returns.”
“What! Not accept returns! How dare you not. Returns is a part of the Christmas spirit. We take things that we don’t want and we return them for something else that we do. Returns is a $47 Billion dollar annual event. You can’t tell me that I cannot return this gift.” The man was heatedly angry by now.
“Well, maybe you could think about the nature of the gift. Giving a gift creates a bond between the giver and the receiver. The person who gave you this gift spent time picking it out just for you. There is a nature of self-giving and sacrifice in the giving of the gift. You might even say there is an element of sacrifice in giving the gift, because, someone had to pay for it. It was an expensive gift and the giver paid the price for you.
“Well it is a piece of junk to me and I …”
“Sorry, no returns.” The customer service clerk smiled again. “Why don’t you keep it anyway, there may be some day that you would wish that you had that gift.”
The gift is of course that the word became flesh and dwelt among us. The gift is that from his fullness we have received grace upon grace.
There are many who would wish that the gift had not ever been given. There are many who wish that the gift were something else. But God doesn’t take returns.
You can ignore the gift, fail to use the gift, leave it up on the shelf in the attic, wish you didn’t have it, but there it is: the gift of the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting.
May we always cherish the gift.