"This is for both."
If you, like me, were born on Christmas Eve, then you likely know the import of that formidable phrase. In short, as a preface to a present presented, it means that the gift you are about to open is serving an impressive double-duty; one that declares both a "Happy Birthday" and a "Merry Christmas." Both realities are now yours -- all wrapped-up in one purchased gift. In concrete terms: one sweater equals two gifts.
While perhaps convenient for the giver, I can tell you that it is only a matter of time before a youthful receiver begins to question the strict justice of this transaction. After all, my siblings seem to receive gifts for each event, birthday and Christmas.
To this day, though, I am pretty sure that equals two gifts, not one. The math is simple; the equity is questionable. Indeed, how can one gift justifiably cover "both?"
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"This is for both?"
As I grow older, though, the phrase takes on a more personal, and more theological, consideration.
Specifically, it asks rightly how one gift, justifiably, covers both my unrighteousness and, at the same time, covers my need for God's righteousness. Is not that reality even more formidable than my former sweater-ly concerns?
Moreover, is that not also what the Bible describes as taking place, for real, when sinners turn from their sin and to Jesus in faith (ex. Romans 5:1-6:23; Ephesians 2:1-10; I John 1:5-3:5)?
In concrete terms: At the cross of Jesus Christ, God was pleased to take away my sin and to give me Christ's righteousness. (Notably, however, this gift was not at all convenient for the giver!) Simultaneously, God's justice is satisfied and I am justified, no longer condemned, set free, forgiven. For real; the one gift purchased at the cross, and forever wrapped up, now belongs to me!
Thus, this season I am both happy and merry to receive a gift that serves such a spectacular double-duty. As you open gifts during this season of mirth and birth, may you receive this good news of great joy that is able to declare to you too:
"This is for both!"
-- Rev. Dr. Craig Davis is minister at Grace United Reformed Church of Kennewick. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.