Indescribable Gift

by Pastor Doug Engel

What’s the most memorable Christmas gift you’ve ever received? (If you’re my age you may have lots of memorable gifts to choose from!) For example, one of the earliest gifts I remember receiving was a toy robot. At nine years old I was a certified space cadet and I’m sure I went through the batteries in less than an hour. More than a half century later, I still remember feeling that I must be the luckiest kid in the world!


Can I describe that battery operated robot to you in detail? I think so. It was about ten inches tall, silver in colour and rather square looking. It’s shoulders were painted red. You could hear the gears turning as it waddled, red lights flashing. The controls were attached through a long cord and I probably looked like a big goofy robot following a smaller one when I made it go.

Most things we can describe. When my son trained for the RCMP I remember him telling me about an exercise he was involved in. The trainees were subjected to a scene for only a minute or so. Once removed from the scene they were assigned the task of describing what they saw. All of this was to help train their eyes to notice the details, to enhance their ability to accurately describe a potential crime scene.

I could sure use some of that training to help me notice details. When I’ve been asked to describe a person I saw downtown or a vehicle I saw in a parking lot ... let’s just say I wouldn’t come close to getting a passing mark!

The Apostle Paul writes about the value of giving extravagantly in 2 Cor. 9. The Corinthian church had made a pledge to help another church out of a financial bind. Paul reminds them to make good on their pledge. “Poor sowing means a poor harvest, and generous sowing means a generous harvest” (2 Cor. 9:6 Phillips).

Paul does a pretty good job of describing the benefits of being generous. He had a good education, knew multiple languages, and being who he was, he was never short of words. That changed at the end of the chapter.

Paul writes something that kind of explodes onto the page, seemingly coming out of nowhere. Does it even fit the context? Paul writes, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:16).

What? There’s something Paul can’t describe! When you think about it, as Paul talks to the church about giving and giving generously, he can’t help but compare our small gifts, our small sacrifices, to God’s great gift, God’s great sacrifice.

The word Paul uses here, saying that this gift is “indescribable”, is the only time this word is used in the Bible. It means that there just aren’t any words to express the greatness of something. In that moment Paul is lost for words.

During the Christmas season we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Paul reminds us here that Jesus came for a purpose. He gave and he gave generously, his life for yours. That really is overwhelming. There really aren’t any words to describe the greatness of Jesus’ sacrifice.