Tricounty News

Christmas giving: 'All out of proportion'

I call it the Law of Proportionality. It's a law all of us follow, even though it's not written down and you've never heard of it. The Law of Proportionality is this: The gifts we give, especially at Christmas, are given in proportion to the role the recipient plays in our life. Those who play a small role - the paper boy, your hairdresser, co-workers - receive small gifts, while those who play a big role - family and dear friends - receive the big, expensive gifts. Imagine if you did the opposite: gave the paper boy a cordless drill and your husband a McDonald's gift certificate. Or gave a coffee mug to your wife and a diamond bracelet to your secretary (which would, of course, mean death). Obviously, the reason we all follow the Law of Proportionality is that it's the only sensible way to do things. To do otherwise would be foolish - and perhaps fatal! Except our God breaks this "law" all the time. We especially see it in the life of Jesus. He attends a wedding where they run out of wine. Embarrassing, but no big deal. Yet, even though it's not His responsibility, He miraculously provides six stone jars filled to the brim with 20-30 gallons of wine each! (And yes, it really was wine, not grape juice.) Jesus told stories of parties being thrown for returned runaways who'd squandered the family fortune, while not a thing was done for the stay-at-home, obedient one. And Jesus frequently welcomed the "sinners" of His day, tax collectors, prostitutes, etc., and even dined with them, while telling some of the religious, upstanding folks - who thought they deserved God's gifts and favor - that they were "whitewashed tombs," in need of repentance. Needless to say, many people were terribly offended, as they would be today. Of course, those who knew that their lives were a mess, who knew they deserved no favor or blessings from their God, who knew they were lost and sinful, deserving only God's anger and punishment, found in Jesus a gift all out of proportion to what they deserved. They found a friend, a brother, a savior. They found that their God had come to earth to bleed and die for them, to take away their sin and death, and to give them instead the incredible gift of eternal life; a gift more wildly out of proportion than a million dollar Christmas tip for a paper boy. That's what we celebrate at Christmas, a gift all out of proportion to who we are and what we deserve: The gift - wrapped in flesh in a manger and later wrapped in our sin on a cross - of forgiveness, instead of punishment, of welcome instead of rejection, of mercy instead of wrath, of life instead of death. Now, it probably won't work for us to imitate this kind of gift-giving at Christmas. But I do pray that we all remember and rejoice, as we sensibly dole out our gifts, large and small, that God has recklessly given the same gift to everyone, a gift completely out of proportion to any notion of sensibility, a gift beyond our wildest expectations - the gift of JESUS. A very blessed Christmas to you all. Rev. David S. Milz St. John's Lutheran Church Kimball