The Greatest Gift

Thomas Lieth

One might not believe it, but the year is already drawing to a close. Now it is again time to think about what to put in the children’s stocking and what to give Aunt Erna for Christmas.

Even though my preceding words don’t sound like it, I feel that this tradition is very beautiful. What is wrong with surprising the children and delighting one’s loved ones with presents? Little to nothing. Consequently, I am an ardent lover of the Christmas season with all its many traditions, of which gifts certainly are an important part.

Yet, when we are talking about presents, the greatest gift of all is definitely love. Thus, I am more joyful about receiving my wife’s love than a pair of socks. Even children care more about their parents’ love than they do about any toy. Of course, one does not exclude the other. But gifts without love are like a river without water. Paul writes: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13).

Perhaps this year’s pre-Christmas time should make us more sensitive to treating our fellow human beings in general, and our brothers and sisters in the faith in particular, with much more love. Isn’t there way too much strife, division, envy, pride and arrogance in our congregations, as well as between Christian brothers and sisters? All these things lead to unkindness.

Dear readers, we are certainly not all of the same opinion. We also do not find everyone equally likable. We do not have the same talents, nor do we have the same knowledge. We attend different congregations and sing different hymns. You read one article from Midnight Call with delight and feel refreshed; then you read another one, shake your head and feel upset. But, have we forgotten that God loves one brother no less than the other? Have we forgotten that the Bible warns us of envy and strife, but at the same time calls us to unconditional love? How did Paul say it? “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:4-7).

Where is there still room for strife and anger, for arrogance and our lack of loving-kindness? This love—especially among Christian brothers and sisters, regardless of their church membership—is not a pious wish or recommendation, but an unequivocal command. Thus says the Apostle John: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:7-11).

It would be a most extraordinary gift if from now on, you would meet your Christian brothers and sisters across all borders and differences with cordial love. Love can be practiced and applied in practical ways by always regarding others higher than oneself. And so, I pray that someone will give you this gift of love, and that you will surprise and delight others with such a gift. Knowing that God has given us the amazing and precious gift of becoming human in His Son, Jesus Christ, I greet you in heartfelt fellowship.

Midnight Call - 12/2020

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