Because We Love
by Barbara Berry-Bailey
Who doesn’t like giving and receiving gifts? Aside from the fairly recent use of gift cards, people have spent considerable time and physical and mental energy selecting and presenting birthday gifts, wedding gifts, graduation gifts and even just-because-I-love-you gifts.
Though not explicitly mentioned in the George Wyle song, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” gifts are an integral part of the Christmas tradition, both secular and religious. Theologically sound sermons proclaim God’s gift of the Christ child to humanity. You have the option to give or not to give a gift. God could have chosen another way to redeem humanity. How? I can’t imagine. That would be up to the Almighty, but God had the option not to give us Christ.
So it goes with a gift. You are not obligated to give a gift. Yes, the expectation might be there; hence the department store registry. But we are not commanded to do so, regardless of what etiquette columnists might think.
Having worked in development for public radio and television stations, I know of what I speak. The now regular on-air fundraisers encourage, seduce and entice listeners and viewers to “do your part” because, honestly, they are not obligated. However, it is not the same in the Judeo-Christian community. Support of the community of faith is not simply an expectation or even an obligation. I believe it is the law.
The Rev. Barbara Berry-Bailey is the manager of companion education in ELCA Global Mission.
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