On December 11, 2021, a group of us from Grace UMC attended the Ruston Christmas Parade in Downtown Ruston, meeting in the lot of one of our local businesses located on the parade route. As a ministry to the community, our youth and children brought several 5 gallon containers full of hot chocolate, cups, marshmallows, and other goodies to serve and give away to those who attended the parade. It happened to be a rare chilly night in December of 2021, so our hot chocolate stand was a busy place. Several people passing by asked us how much we were charging and were pleasantly surprised when we said it was free. One person seemed to have such trouble accepting our gift that she asked if she could leave a donation, though we were unprepared for such a response and had not brought anything to receive her gracious offer.
This got me to thinking (always a dangerous thing), why do we have such trouble accepting a free gift? Probably like many of you, I remember my High School economics class which openly taught that “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” Likely, we are afraid accepting a “free” gift has strings attached or that it will leave us in the debt of the one who gives which must be paid back at a later date. We know from past experience that it is rare that a gift is truly free.
Yet, the Bible clearly tells us that this is the gift God offers us. Ephesians 2:8 says “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;”. Romans 6:23 writes “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What seems to be clear from these verses is that our salvation can never be earned or bought, it is the gift of God. But for it to truly be a gift, the gift must be unwrapped, accepted and put to use. So it is with the gift of God. We must accept the gift of Jesus, the salvation he offers, and put it to work in our lives and in our world.
But my economics teacher was right- “there is no free lunch”. We know that this free gift to us came at a high price for God- the gift of his only Son, Emmanuel-God with us, Jesus, the Christ. This one whose birth we celebrate at Christmas grew to be a man like us, lived among us, then died and was resurrected to offer us the gift of salvation. There was no other way. We could never be good enough or pay enough to achieve salvation for ourselves. Jesus truly gave us the best gift, his very life, death, and resurrection to bring God’s salvation to us.
In this season of giving and receiving of gifts, I hope you will receive gifts joyfully and with awe that someone loved you enough to spend the time and money to give the gift. Most of all, I pray that you will receive the most important gift of all, accepting, following, and sharing the gift of Jesus Christ with the whole world. Oh, and don’t forget to accept that free gift of hot chocolate (I like mine with a few marshmallows) that reminds us of so many other gifts that God has given to us, especially His son, Jesus Christ!