With Mother’s Day, Matthew’s birthday May 15, Jacob’s birthday May 16, Doris’ birthday, our Wedding Anniversary, & Father’s Day, gifts have been on the brain the past few weeks.
One of the more memorable gifts I can recall was a Christmas gift our grandparents gave my older brother, David, back in 1971. Our grandparents were in town for Thanksgiving & left his Christmas gift early. It was in a humongous gift-wrapped box. (Of course I was like 3 feet tall, so my perspective might be skewed.) It was extremely heavy. (We nudged it 80 some odd times to try accurately gauge its weight) We dedicated many the hour poring over the Sears Roebuck catalog trying to guess what this incredible present might be: perhaps it was a 4-Car Hot-Wheel Racing Track set or a GT Scooter with ball-bearing wheels, or (Dare we dream?) an NFL electric football game?
Aside: For our younger readers, a catalog is a publication that groups a series of products into categories with their applicable price & shipping cost. Christmas season officially started with the commencement of Advent & the arrival of the Sears catalog. At one point, the Sears catalog was 2nd only to the Bible in terms of popularity in the United States.
Now lest you think I was not a competitive little brother & envious of David’s gigantic present, my excitement was really quite self-centered. My brother was in grade school all day 5 days/week. I was in pre-school 4 afternoons/week. This meant 1 full day & 4 mornings of unfettered access to this awesome toy, whatever it might be. St. Francis of Assisi, I’m not.
Christmas morning finally arrived & as my brother opened his treasure, our jaws dropped: it was a red-checked bedspread. I can still hear my Mother’s exclamation ringing in my ears as she saw the gift, “Oh my, isn’t it beautiful? And it is of such good quality, it will last forever!” (She was right. My Brother still has that bedspread to this day.)
If our Grandparents had known of our hopes for the gift, they would have no doubt been disheartened. However, the audience in Jesus’ day would certainly be familiar with gods (small g) pulling a “bait & switch” in the god’s dealings with them. These gods were quite temperamental, petty, & vindictive. Every answered request or offered gift always had strings attached that made receiving the present a veritable Catch-22.
In today’s passage, Jesus is contrasting His Father with these trickster gods. Jesus assures us that if one of His hungry children were to ask for bread, God most certainly would not give them a stone. (To fully appreciate how teasing this might be, consider the river rocks that seem to be shaped like loaves of bread.) God’s ways may be mysterious, but He is never going to taunt a starving child with some inedible rock.
With time & perspective, God’s gift giving always seems to exceed our expectations; not disappoint us. His greatest gift to us didn’t come with brightly colored wrapping paper; rather it was covered with rough-hewn wood. The gift-wrap was not attached with scotch tape; instead it was sealed with long nails. There wasn’t a beautiful bow on His gift to us; rather it was topped with twisted branches covered with inch-long thorns. Despite its seemingly ugly exterior, once opened, this gift is quite breathtakingly beautiful & unbelievably expensive: Salvation!
Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.