While many of us consider Christmas to be the ultimate gift-giving occasion, it’s worth considering that Easter trumps it.
Across human history, different cultures have given gifts for different reasons. One ancient conviction still practiced today in some tribal cultures is the notion that “a gift is property that perishes,” as Lewis Hyde says in The Gift. That is, one gives a gift with no expectation other than it will be used up completely, whether it is food to be consumed, or a prized treasure to be passed from one family to another, or one generation to another. (This happens even within our own family traditions.)
Likewise, we heard in the January sermon on Genesis 4 how Cain and Abel’s gifts (“offerings”) to God differed. Abel’s gift was from the first-born of his flocks, while “in the course of time” Cain gave “some” of his fruits. While both brothers’ gifts was irrevocable (akin to “property that perishes”), we learned that Abel gave a “better sacrifice” from a position of faith (Hebrews 11:4), not knowing whether he would have more offspring from his flock. Moreover, Cain’s response demonstrated that his offering was given with an expectation of God’s blessing.
Yet on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we see the manifestation of John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The Father comes in the person of Jesus Christ to be a gift “that perishes” on the cross. Yet, because of Jesus’ resurrection three days later and our repentance made possible by the Holy Spirit, Jesus is our living hope, and we do not have to perish (2 Peter 3:9). The free gift to us of Good Friday and Easter Sunday is the Good News, and it is news we can share from family to family, generation to generation.
As we celebrate Easter, let’s remember to pass along the gifts we’ve been given.