So my wife and I can’t ever wait till Christmas. And this year it was last night. It was time for the exchanging of our gifts. And of course it is a competition…why wouldn’t it be? And of course every year I win..why wouldn’t I? But maybe that is because of my extreme particularities when it comes to gifts. My wife seems to always hand me a gift with the caveat, “Now I won’t be offended if you want to take it back.” My wife on the other hand…she is the best person to give a gift to. She loves receiving anything. The more thought (or in my case sneaking around on her Pinterest or listening over the last few months) that goes into the gift, the more amazing her reaction. It really is the best. And so I try to mimic her reaction…although most of the time I am pretty sure she can see through me if my reaction is less than genuine (she did do good this year though).
Now although I am given the caveat of being able to return stuff, there is one alternate method that I know I am never to explore with my gifts: regifting. We all know how invaluable regifting can be. In fact I am sure many of you have closets or storage spaces for those gifts you receive that I am sure are on someone’s Christmas list for the next year. Of course there is an art to regifting. You absolutely, under no circumstances, can ever regift a gift back to the original giver. It’s tricky I know. But have you ever perhaps thought that regifting is divine.
I think a lot about the origin of gift giving with Christmas and I am pretty sure the gifting at Christmas traces back to the original gift (that probably goes without saying). This can become a tricky subject theologically speaking. What was the ultimate gift given through the birth of Christ. Was it Grace, Presence, Peace, Joy, Hope? Yes. But the principal thing, in my opinion, that was brought about through the birth of Christ (and thousands if not millions of people can argue with me on this) was Forgiveness. The reason I am so quick to name forgiveness as the ultimate gift offered through Christ is because it is something so contrary to who we in our humanness often are. After all, Alexander Pope once wrote, “To err is human; to forgive Divine”.
I think about the one story where Peter thinks he is going to one up the disciples in front of the master by illustrating how he goes beyond the law. In Matthew 18:21-22 we read, “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times’.” You see, Jewish law required a person to forgive someone for the same offense three times, but not the forth. So Peter thought he was going beyond the law and therefore would appeal to the Rabbi’s sensibilities. But of course Jesus takes it from the carnal to the Divine quickly. Forgiveness is something that you offer and give again and again and again.
The worst part about forgiveness..we can’t do it. Our memories* and our sense for justice based in this life keep us from being able to forgive on our own. Otherwise he world would be a lot more peaceful. But (and I apologize if this gets a bit too ethereal) we can participate in the Divine Forgiveness offered to us and the rest of humanity. We can regift that which was given to us again and again and restore right relationship with each other through the right relationship that was restored between God and us through the gift of forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ. It really is the ultimate regifting. And the best part about it is you will never offend the original Giver by offering this gift again and again. In fact, regifting may be the only way by which we understand the ultimate gift offered us through the Advent of Christ. So get to regifting Forgiveness and participation in the Divine Life.
* I could write an entire blog post about our misconception of God’s memory and sin and scripture that we quote that isn’t there…but that will be for another day.