Be Like Marvin

Early this morning, I was meditating on my Sunday school lesson for the day. It focuses on two sad Christmas gifts. One is the gift not received, the other the gift not offered.

The first is like the Gospel rejected, which is “foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Cor. 1:18) “who ignore so great a salvation” (Heb. 2:3). This is sad. Imagine a gift, bought and paid for, sitting under the tree as the intended recipient rejects it, leaving it unopened. That’s pretty sad. 

But the second is, to me, even sadder, the gift that is bought and paid for but never offered.

I never met my Granddaddy Rizzo. He passed a few years before I was born. But as I hear stories of him, I feel I know him because I have seen his character traits that come through in those stories exhibited in my dad, Aunt Susie, and Uncle Allen. There are lots of these anecdotes about his life that I have filed away in my mind, but about a year ago I learned a bit more about one of them. 

Just about everyone who talks about my grandfather says things about his jovial nature and how nice he was, but for most of his life he wasn’t a Christian. Then shortly before he passed he had a conversation with my Maw-maw’s brother Ralph Creel. Uncle Ralph was a minister, and I’m sure he had shared the Gospel with my grandfather. During one of their last visits together, my grandfather shared, “Ralph, I’ve met someone since I saw you last.” My uncle inquired who and the response was “Jesus.” My grandfather passed shortly after that conversation.

For years, I assumed it was my uncle’s and Maw-maw’s witness that brought Granddaddy to Christ. And I’m sure it was, but I never really knew the details of his friendship with Marvin Burns until last year. (If you attend church with me, Marvin is Wayne’s father and Rita’s father-in-law.) 

Marvin was a minister. He and my grandfather were friends, so my grandfather often chauffeured him to his speaking engagements. On these trips I’m sure they talked about kids and motorcycles and all kinds of things. But at each church service my grandfather heard Marvin offering him the gift of salvation through Jesus in his sermon and saw him living the gift as they rode along together. 

But with my lesson topic in mind, I began to ponder what if Marvin had never offered his friendship. Or what if he didn’t want to offend my grandfather? Or what if he felt religion is a personal matter? Or what if he for however many reasons never offered the gift of Christ’s love to my granddaddy? But he did, and sometime in 1955 or 56 my grandfather accepted “the” Christmas gift because someone offered it to him. 

So first, let me say if you have thus far left the gift of the love of Jesus and salvation through him under the tree, rejected and unopened, well, don’t. Just don’t. That’s just rude… and so sad and foolish. It is “the indescribable gift” (2 Cor 9:15) that was put there for you. It is a costly gift, one you could never afford on your own. Fortunately, “it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8), free for the receiving, purchased just for you. 

And if you have received this amazing gift, why aren’t you sharing it? Get busy and be like Marvin!

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Stephen W. B. Rizzo

I am a Christian who is flawed but forgiven. I am a father who is blessed beyond measure with two amazing children. I am an educator who is fortunate to get paid for doing what he loves. I am a writer, a budding photographer, and a musician who really needs to practice more.

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