Remember that we are the clay, and you are the potter. We are all the work of your hand. We are all your people. Isaiah 64:9
Regifting happens during Christmas. Regifting is the act of taking a gift that has been received and giving it to somebody else, sometimes under the guise of a new gift. Rule # 3 in an article in Money Crashers, “8 Rules for Regifting Unwanted Gifts Etiquette,” says only brand-new items should be regifted.
What happens then, when we regift ourselves back to God? What if we are slightly damaged, broken, even shattered like sherds of shattered pottery? Will God accept us in that condition?
Pottery and pottery making is mentioned several times in the Bible. Isaiah and other prophets and preachers used pottery and pottery making as object lessons to teach spiritual truths.
Making clay pottery requires an idea design, materials, and a process. A finished piece of pottery begins with an idea design in the imagination of the potter of what the final shape and purpose of the created piece will be. Materials such as clay, a pottery wheel, water, and a kiln to fire and dry the pottery to keep it from returning to mud and breaking are needed. The process of pottery making involves the selection of properly prepared soft clay made from mud, the shaping of the mud on the potter’s wheel by a skilled potter, and the firing of the piece of newly shaped pottery in a kiln.
The prophet Isaiah passionately implores God not to give up on his people. He reminds God that the formation of the people is a work in progress, and God’s work with his people is not yet finished. He calls upon God to come down from heaven and return to the potter’s wheel and finish shaping them with his guiding, loving, and merciful hands.
Isaiah confesses that the people have not been easy to work with (64:5b-7). The centrifugal forces and pulls of life pushed them to separate themselves from God’s shaping hands. They failed to yield to God’s will. They stopped calling on the name of the Lord and neglected to take hold of God as the center of their personal and communal life. The people chose to live life on their own, without remembering or seeking help and guidance from God for their daily lives. They experience the dread that comes from feeling God’s absence and hiddenness. Without God at the center of their lives, they became spiritually and socially wobbly and uneven, spinning out of control and out of relationship with God. As a consequence, God gave them up to their own sin (64:7). Nevertheless, Isaiah’s prayer reminds God that the people are still clay in his hands and still his people.
The harsh experience of the exile has softened like clay the hardened and rebellious hearts and minds of the people. The people have tried life without God as their center; it brought them humiliation, loss, and suffering. They are now ready to be reconsolidated and reformed by God. They desire a restored relationship with God, to again call upon his name for help and guidance, gladly do right, remember God in their ways, and place God at the center of their life together.
Isaiah stands between the people and God as the people’s pastor, priest, and prophet. He offers a gift to God that already belonged to God – God’s very own people. The people Isaiah offers God as a gift have been through some hard times. As exiles in Babylon, they had no form or majesty, they were despised and rejected, and held of no account. They were stricken, struck down, afflicted, wounded, crushed and bruised (Is. 53). The years of exile beat them down and broke them like thousands of unusable pottery sherd pieces.
Nevertheless, Isaiah has absolute faith that God has the power to restore broken people and broken relationships because God is faithful and merciful to keep God’s promise to never leave or forsake his people. His prayer appeals to God’s restorative mercy which is greater than all of their human brokenness, weakness, and sin.
Christmas is a season for giving gifts; sometimes regifted gifts. We give because God so loved the world that he gifted us his only son Jesus Christ so we might have life, abundant and eternal. Many of us will give gifts this Christmas season to loved ones, to our church so the word and deed gospel can be shared, and to charitable organizations so others can be cared for, fed, clothed, and housed. One important gift we can include is the surrender and regifting of ourselves to God, even if we find ourselves in this season of Advent spiritually wobbly, broken, struck down, wounded, crushed, bruised, or disconnected from God. Regifting ourselves to God will cease our sense of loneliness and abandonment. Pope Francis in his book, The Church of Mercy, says that in surrender to God, we will discover a fuller existence, lit up by faith and the love of the living God. We will find a love of God so great, so deep, a love so unfailing that always takes us by the hand and supports us, lifts us up, and leads us on.
Let’s regift ourselves to God this Christmas season – even if life has left us somewhat wobbly, broken, and shattered into bits and pieces. God will receive us with open welcome and joy! The message of Advent is that God is not finished with us yet. He continues to shape us and the world to be more loving, merciful and just through new life in Christ. We can regift ourselves to God this Christmas – even our brokenness and shattered pieces of our lives – and trust that our lives will be beautifully reconsolidated and shaped by the Master Potter for good works in Christ Jesus (Ep. 2:10).