The more I explore faith, the more I come to see that the concept of 'gift' is an essential one.
If I were to put that into an image, I think it would be a picture of a pair of
outstretched hands, palms held upwards (a gesture, appropriately, many use in prayer).
The Oxford English Dictionary defines 'gift' as 'something, the possession of which is transferred to another without the expectation or receipt of an equivalent'.
Gift resonates with me at many levels:
the gift of the universe,
the gift of my own life within it - for a brief time (who knows how long?)
the gift of those who have loved me.
I have not asked for these things, they have come to me freely, often with an element of surprise. A response of thanks from me has often been forthcoming - but not expected.
Not surprisingly 'gift' seems to be written into the very nature of God:
God, the one who 'gives' space for creation to be,
who, in the Christian tradition, 'gives' God's self in the Incarnation sharing our precarious tragically-beautiful existence,
who 'for-gives' the murder of Christ,
and who returns Christ to the world with the 'gift' of the Spirit.
My wife was in a Bible study group recently discussing the motivations for
sharing faith with others which led us to ponder our feelings on this subject.
On reflection what ultimately drives me as a Christian is the desire to put others in touch with their 'giftedness' so that they may feel and know again the surprise and joy again of their existence.
And beyond that, to encourage them to return 'thanks': to live out their giftedness in such a way that others, too - whose lives may be limited by health, wealth, outlook and environment - can more fully discover their lives as gift.
It's summed up for me at the end of the Anglican Communion service, when after receiving the 'gifts' of bread and wine we pray:
Almighty God, we thank you for feeding us with the body and blood of your Son Jesus Christ, through him we offer you our souls and bodies to be a living sacrifice. Send us out in the power of your Spirit, to live and work to your praise and glory. Amen.