We’ve been conditioned to be skeptical of free. That’s conditioning is probably the biggest barrier we face in dong events on the True Meaning of Christmas Tour. Nobody really seems bothered by our Christmas imagery or music. They aren’t turned off by our blessings of “merry Christmas!” People are simply weirded out that we want to give them hot cocoa.
There has to be a catch, right?
On a cold snowy day–like the day we faced at our stop in Columbus, Ohio–the skepticism of free is heightened. People really want to avoid lingering outside. They’re afraid that by accepting a free cup of cocoa they’re beholden to something else. Everything comes with a cost, right? And the cost of conversation is a bit high when unprepared for an early snow storm.
For many people, we encounter the message of Christmas in the same way. It’s hard for us to recognize the gift of Christmas because we expect it will demand something from us in return. God’s gift of presence alongside us sounds so extravagant that we don’t believe we can pay the cost.
And yet, God gives the gift of presence anyway–even when we’re unaware of it. In our Methodist-Church world, we call that prevenient grace. Prevenient grace is a love that precedes our understanding of it. It’s love given freely without concern for cost.
Our friends from Maize Manor United Methodist Church in Columbus personified a living object lesson of this love as they hustled around in snowy conditions attempting to deliver passers-by a simple gift. They worked hard, and once they were able to crack through the skepticism of free others expressed a wonderful sense of gratitude.
My favorite response of the day: “It’s free?! How the hell would I say ‘no’ to that?!”