The greatest gift ever given to me, the most intimate and personal gift I've ever received, was the gift given to everyone, not just me.
That greatest gift was given to everyone who has ever breathed, to multitudes who no longer breathe, and to untold millions who've yet to take their first breath.
It was a gift about me, suited perfectly for me, a gift handcrafted precisely to fit my need, a gift I've been told that the Giver would have given if I'd been the only one in need. Having tasted the love of this Giver, I fully believe that the tellers of such magnanimity tell me the truth.
And so the gift is mine. But the gift is made all the more beautiful and personal and real, undiminished in any way but enlarged into dimensions dwarfing comprehension, because it is also completely and perfectly yours.
The gift is so vast, so all-encompassing, so high and wide and deep, that though it was given once for all for all time, it is also truly given for you, for me, for right now, for this time.
Its power pulses into the far reaches of eternity, as well as into the air you'll draw in with your next breath. It gives life to scads of galaxies yet unnamed and unimagined, even as it frees genuine life and joy to cascade into the soul presently inhabiting the minuscule universe of your own body bounded at its farthest reaches by ten fingers, ten toes.
It is a gift that mysteriously breathes grace into my life even as it also enlivens the whole Body. "Bread ceases not to be" bread even as it becomes for me His body and a means of grace. Wine ceases not to be wine even as it flows, rich and red and real, blood from His head and hands and feet, down that tree, for me, but also for millions so like, and yet, snowflake like, so unlike, me. That blood washes over me as it covers us all who lay down forever any claim to any offering, any gift ever given, but one — His.
Seeing the gift, receiving the gift, given for me, given for us all, I cry at Love's breathtaking extravagance, the spectacle of such precious blood being shed. But the tears, drip, drip, dripping from my eyes, soon join the tears falling from all other faces ever turned toward His, and they become a salty river of joy, a tribute to the One whose blood is the River of Life flowing not only for me, but for us all.
The same gift that binds me forever to His precious Body, also frees me, and all who trust in Him, to dance forever together, complete in His joy.
No accident it is that the gift is given on a cross where God's justice and God's mercy mysteriously intersect, and no small part of the wonder it is that those arms are thrown open so wide that the gift given fully and forever for each one of us is also given fully and forever for all.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at