This is a straight-forward hymn that tells us exactly what Christ gives, and where He gives them. The hymn text is by Richard Resch (b. 1947), retired Kantor from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, with tune (DENBY) by Charles Dale.
Stanza One gives us an introduction to the entire hymn: The gifts Christ freely gives He gives to you and me To be His Church, His bride, His chosen, saved and free! Saints blest with these rich gifts Are children who proclaim That they were won by Christ And cling to His strong name. As the Bride of Christ, the Church receives great gifts from the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.
Stanza Two shows the first place where we receive Christ’s gifts, in Holy Baptism: The gifts flow from the font Where He calls us His own; New life He gives that makes Us His and His alone. Here He forgives our sins With water and His Word; The triune God Himself Gives pow’r to call Him Lord. These are not strange or unknown gifts, but they are the gifts promised in Holy Scripture. Lutherans call them the means of grace, of which Baptism is the first. We receive forgiveness & life at the font, where Christ puts His name on us, marking each of us as one redeemed by Christ the Crucified.
Stanza Three speaks of Holy Absolution, which flows from Baptism and is where we are reminded of the forgiveness won for us by Christ on the cross, delivered by the Pastor, “in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The gifts of grace and peace From absolution flow; The pastor’s words are Christ’s For us to trust and know. Forgiveness that we need Is granted to us there; The Lord of mercy sends Us forth in His blest care. I know it sounds blasphemous to some that the pastor can say, “…I forgive you your sins…” but don’t miss the next part of the liturgy: “…in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” That phrase, along with the statement about how he is speaking “in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ” is summed up well by this phrase: The pastor’s words are Christ’s For us to trust and know. If they were merely the pastor’s words there would be no certainty. But Christ has given the Church the authority to forgive or retain sins, as stated in John 20:19-23. So we can know that this forgiveness, first given to us in Holy Baptism, continues to be given through Christ’s Church in Holy Absolution.
Stanza Four speaks of the Word as the Means of Grace that is with us each day in our homes, as well as during the Divine Service. The gifts are there each day The holy Word is read; God’s children listen, hear, Receive, and they are fed. Christ fills them with Himself, Blest words that give them life, Restoring and refreshing Them for this world’s strife.
Stanza Five brings us back to the Sacraments by speaking of The Lord’s Supper. The gifts are in the feast, Gifts far more than we see; Beneath the bread and wine Is food from Calvary. The body and the blood Remove our ev’ry sin; We leave His presence in His peace, renewed again. I especially love the line “Beneath the bread and wine is food from Calvary.” We believe that the same body of the same Christ who hung on the cross of Calvary is bodily present each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. This is indeed a mystery and some churches, such as the Roman Catholics, try to explain how this is possible. As Lutherans, we speak as far as the Scriptures speak and no further, so we believe that it is Christ’s True Body and True Blood that we receive, but we do not try to explain how that is possible. The word “sacrament” comes from the Latin sacramentum, which in turn comes from the Greek mysterion, meaning “mystery.” The bodily presence of our Lord is like the Trinity: we believe it to be true because Scripture tells us that it is, but we cannot fully explain it. Martin Luther, when asked how to explain how Jesus’s body and blood can be truly there in the sacrament, replied, “Jesus is good at miracles.” Amen!
Stanza Six is a great doxological stanza that gives praise to the One who gives us such great gifts. Indeed, as the final phrase says, “All thanks and praise for His great love by which we live!” Each breath we take is a gift from God, and He continues to bless us with the gifts given through His Word and Sacraments. Thanks be to God! All glory to the One Who lavishes such love; The triune God in love Assures our life above. His means of grace for us Are gifts He loves to give; All thanks and praise for His Great love by which we live!