Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A Gift for a King

An Arkie's Faith column from the January 16, 2019, issue of The Mena Star.

The young girl eagerly tore the wrapping paper as she anticipated what was inside such a large box. She had noticed this present the moment she walked into Grandma’s living room and saw that one present under the tree was larger than all the rest. When she looked at the present, it had her name on it! She was so excited that she could hardly wait for Christmas morning.

When the paper was finally off the large box, and she was able to open it with the help of Daddy’s knife, her eyes lit up as she saw a barn and stable for her Spirit Riding Free horses. The box included a barn, fences, a wheelbarrow, stables with working lights, grooming tools, treats, and a real water pump with a hose. Grandma was happy that she seemed to like the gift. When we give gifts, we hope that the recipients will like them. We spend a lot of money and time finding the right gifts for people that are important in our life. Did you give any great gifts this year?

One Christmas when my son was a young boy, we nearly ruined his Christmas with one of his gifts. One of his jobs was sweeping the kitchen floor. That Christmas we bought a stick vacuum cleaner and thought it would be funny to give to him as a gift. The vacuum, wrapped in beautiful paper, was the largest gift under the tree. When my son saw that the largest gift had his name on it, he was very excited. His imagination went wild. What could that present be? His whole Christmas revolved around the largest gift under the tree and speculating on what it could be. When Christmas morning arrived, all he could think about was that gift. When he opened it, he was so disappointed that the rest of his Christmas presents couldn't make up for the vacuum cleaner fiasco.

Did you have a difficult time choosing gifts for your friends or family this Christmas? Sometimes it can be hard to find just the right gift. Finding great gifts isn't just a twenty-first century Christmas problem. In the eighth century, a monk named Alcuin was wondering what to get King Charlemagne for Christmas.

Around 780, Charlemagne asked Alcuin to join his court in Francia. One year at Christmas, Alcuin wrote a letter to the king. The monk was afraid that his wealthier rivals would overshadow him at court. They had the money to buy the king expensive presents. Alcuin wrote: “I have long wondered what I might think a worthy gift to do honor to your imperial power and add to the riches of your treasury.” He went on to say that he was presenting to the king, “a gift of the Scriptures which are written with the pen of heavenly grace.”

When Alcuin wrote to Charlemagne to tell him of his Christmas gift, he said that a student of his, Nathanael, would deliver the gift. Alcuin sent Nathanael to Charlemagne’s court with the instruction, “Give my Lord my letter and my gift of the scriptures on Christmas Day with the greeting of peace.”

A beautifully decorated tenth-century copy of Alcuin’s letters records the story of this Christmas gift. The manuscript is a part of Lambeth Palace Library. Imagine how hard it was for a poor monk to come up with a suitable gift for the king. He knew from reading the scriptures that “a gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.” Proverbs 18:16 (NIV)

It is fun to give gifts but deciding on the proper gift for someone can be difficult. I have never needed to give a gift to a king, but I often struggle with coming up with good gift ideas for my wife. Receiving gifts can be fun. It’s especially nice when the person giving the gift knows you well enough to know what you need and the things that you like. A good gift fits your personality.

When Jesus was giving the sermon on the mount, he said, “if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” Matthew 7:11 (NLT) Even though we sometimes struggle with knowing what gifts to give others, God always knows the best gifts to give us. He knows what we need and can use, and he wraps up his gifts with love. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (NKJV) Now that is an awesome gift!

Gentle Reader, at times we as humans use our gift giving to try and gain favor with someone. But God is not trying to buy our favor or our love. He gives to us freely because he loves us, knows us, and knows our needs. He knows that we all need the gift of grace. We all need forgiveness. We all need to have the penalty paid for our sins. We need the gift of God; eternal life through Jesus. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 (NKJV) Don’t be too proud to accept the gift. “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” Ephesians 2:8 (NLT) “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15 (NIV)

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