Growing up, gift-giving wasn’t really a thing in my household. My brother and I usually received hong bao instead of nicely wrapped gifts from my parents for our birthdays and Christmases. I didn’t see anything particularly wrong with receiving money – except for the awkwardness at school. Whenever my friends would all talk about what they asked their parents for Christmas, I never had much to share.
It’s not that my parents didn’t want or know how to give gifts; but they viewed food, clothing, piano lessons, and Chinese school as their gifts to us. In their eyes, the gifts “Americans” gave during this season were “the extras”, topping off what was already enough.
As a child, I had a hard time understanding this. I took for granted the basic gifts my parents gave me, complained about piano lessons and Chinese school, and grumbled about how I didn’t get “the extras” like a new video game system or a road bike. In a working class family, it was hard for me to see my parents’ generosity and sacrificial love in simply providing the basic necessities.
“In a working class family, it was hard for me to see my parents’ generosity and sacrificial love in simply providing the basic necessities.”
When Jesus teaches his disciples about how God gives gifts in Luke 11:11-13, Jesus tells them about how God’s gifts are both enough and more than enough for us. Jesus illustrates this by asking, “Which father among you would give a snake or scorpion to your child if your child asked you for a fish or an egg?” It’s a rhetorical question because, generally speaking, parents desire to give what is good and not what is harmful to their children. Fish and eggs are basic food items that reflect a parent’s desire to give good gifts to their children.
But Jesus continues, “If human parents give good gifts to their children, then how much more would God, our heavenly parent, give us good gifts?” Not only does God want to give us good gifts that are enough for us like our parents would, but God also gives the best gift, the Holy Spirit, to those of us who ask. The Holy Spirit is enough and more than enough for us.
Perhaps this Christmas season, you have been asking God for some basic gifts: that a relationship be healed, a job offer come around, some extra cash, or an A on that next exam. Maybe receiving the Holy Spirit doesn’t quite feel enough. But the Holy Spirit is enough because when it seems like your life is falling apart and chaos is in the world, the Holy Spirit promises us God’s presence, hope, joy, love, and grace to strengthen and sustain us.
“Jesus was and is the tangible gift of God’s presence, hope, joy, love and grace for us.”
We know that this is true because, during Christmas, we celebrate God fulfilling that promise by sending Jesus into our world. Along with the Holy Spirit, Jesus is the most generous, sacrificial, and loving gift God could give humanity. Jesus wasn’t nicely wrapped- he was born in a manger to an unwed, poor, young woman. He wasn’t the king that people expected him to be. But Jesus was and is the tangible gift of God’s presence, hope, joy, love and grace for us. Giving Jesus to the world is our assurance that God will continue to provide good gifts that are enough, and even more than enough for us.