As the holidays are over, and we begin to find places for all the gifts we received, I thought you might enjoy reading this. Because some parts of Christmas we never pack away…
(Reprinted from my article in Fountain of Life magazine [folmag.org] Nov/Dec 2012.)
It was the best Christmas gift ever! The kind that’d make you stop in awe, gazing, eyes sparkling as large as the glittery glass ornaments on the tree, an irrepressible “ahhhhh” escaping your gaping lips.
That’s what I thought at age 9, anyway.
Always before, I couldn’t wait to make my own wish list, searching catalogues and ads. Of course, I knew I wouldn’t get a quarter of it. But a little girl could hope, couldn’t she? That year, though, I have no idea what I wrote; instead, scouring flyers, I found the perfect gift for Dad. A coffee carafe. You put your mug under the spout and pushed a button on the top, and coffee flowed flawlessly right into the cup’s mouth, perfectly hot from the thermal lining that wouldn’t break because it was shatter-proof. Every day, Dad took coffee to work. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand how he liked that horrible-smelling stuff, but he did, so this was the perfect gift. And if ever he wasn’t in the mood for coffee, he could always take sweet tea, which would be kept just as perfectly cold—and much more tasty. I tore out the ad and started saving my money, peeking at the picture each night, growing ever more excited to see him open it Christmas morning. He was going to love it!
Twelve years later, I again watched as my gift was opened, this time, by my mother. I hadn’t thought I could be there, now living 1,000 miles away, but Dad gave me the gift of the trip down, and I watched in anticipation. This gift cost me nothing. Just time. And some paper. I made a picture book. Wrote the words, drew pictures, and stitched the binding. The story of the day I accepted Christ’s sacrifice for me. Realizing I myself was not good. That He was. And that I wanted His goodness for me.) I was four.
Writing about that life-changing day—my family, crazy busy; my asking Mom in mid-run about Jesus; her halting everything to kneel with me in my kitchen; helping me pray—I wanted her to know that, even at that young age, I understood how important Christ was because she stopped when everyone else needed her. My last page read, “Now I would have a Best Friend forever that would never leave me.” That Christmas, as my family watched the wrapping paper being removed, I glued my gaze to Mom’s face, awaiting her reaction. She’d been horribly sick. But reading my gift, she looked healthy for the first time in weeks. Watching her joyful tears, soon I was crying, too. It was the last—and best—gift I ever gave her.
Now, a mother myself, just the suggestion of Christmas brings thoughts of those magical moments and what I can give my children that they will love. Things that will help them grow in their gifts and abilities. That will make their lives richer. Show them how much I love them. And make their eyes sparkle like those glittery glass ornaments….And it brings to mind Matthew 7:11, “If you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (ESV)
No, not a “prosperity gospel,” but the realization: If I love seeing my family ecstatic with my gifts, how much more does He long for our enjoying His? Like Paul’s “thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift [of grace]!” (2 Cor. 9:14-15). And James’ “Every good…and…perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). He longs to see our eyes sparkling in delight, glistening with joy.
Of course, the world has materially hijacked the holiday. In response, we’ve emphasized its true meaning, “Jesus’ birthday.” Birthday cakes. Carols. Like the wisemen, showing our obeisance. I can just see them: Dusty from the long trip, but pushing on with longing to see the favor of this new king. Rejoicing in that shining star. Falling down, worshipping Him, presenting Him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Mt. 2:11). All perfectly fitting gifts for this Son of God born Son of Man.
But it hits me that the angels appeared to shepherds, the lowest of the lowest. Who had nothing to give. And the angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy…for today…there has been born for you a Savior” (Luke 2:10-11, NASB). And, just as He wanted, the shepherds “glorified and praised God for all they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:20).
He came, NOT for what He would receive, but for what He could GIVE: the free gift of eternal life. Galatians 4:4: “When the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law that we might receive the adoption of sons.” “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
Ahhhh. The kind of gift that makes us stop in awe, gazing, eyes sparkling, tears flowing, with an irrepressible “thank you” pouring from our lips. Because there’s no doubt. THIS was the best Christmas gift ever!
(featured image from Visual hunt)