When my husband and I were in college, the term "gratis" was used for the unreimbursed work you would render to the college if you broke a rule. Examples of gratis would be: cleaning communal bathrooms, raking leaves, sweeping sidewalks, etc. Of course, neither Keith nor I ever had to give "gratis" because we, ahem, never broke rules.
The funny thing is, I never really thought about the word "gratis" and what it meant. I knew it had something to do with grace, but I couldn't figure out why the college administration would call punitive action "grace" when you were caught doing wrong. You broke a rule, you would pay. What's gracious about that? Now I realize that it was really the student who would be offering "gratis" or free work to the college as a penalty for their crime. But this actually defies the definition of gratis. Wikipedia defines it thus:
the quality of an action where the action is willingly provided without any requirement by the provider for compensation or monetary remuneration.
The students at our college were receiving something for the gratis work they did: forgiveness. By doing the gratis, their record of law-breaking at the college would be wiped away for them.
At this time of year where obvious blessings are being counted, written of and spoken into microphones at churches around America (or is that only at my parents' little Baptist Church in good 'ole Butler, PA?) the one I am most aware of is the gratis work of Christ. Remember, gratis is the quality of an action where the action is willingly provided without any requirement by the provider for compensation or monetary remuneration. Every other gratis work or gift ever given has been completed by someone who stands equally in need of true gospel gratis. Gratis receivers can become gratis givers. But Christ never needed gratis. He defines it for us; in his life...in his death.
Remember in this season, no matter what gifts you are given by friends or family, that though they are gratis to you, they do not ultimately compare to what Christ has given. These earthly gifts have come to you by those who know what it is to need. They may feel sorry for you, or identify with you in your need. They want to help alleviate your lack. Ultimately, they want you to experience the good that they themselves have. But Christ gave to us from a full cup that never grew dry. He gives things that don't grow old, or stale, or evaporate. He gives life and healing and hope and joy. Eternal things. He gives from his fullness and it never depletes him. Gratis. Unspeakable gratis. No payment required.