Gifts – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
A few days ago an article ran in the Birmingham Mail,Â a publicationÂ inÂ the UK, about the legalities of returning your Christmas gifts.Â I found this interesting as Christmas has notÂ arrived yet a week before the celebration,Â published information comes out on how to return the anticipated giftsÂ that we will not want.
IÂ thought the entire article a bit humorous mostly because my Christmas preparation is a bit lacking so returningÂ gifts has to be the furthest thing from my mind when at this pointÂ I really haven’t bought many. I am not sure ifÂ I have ever returned a gift that I was given anyway. Somehow it just doesn’t seem right; somehow it seems ungracious or ungrateful. I might however be guilty of some standard statements like, oh…how nice or you shouldn’t have, really!
I recently read a top five list of the most common comments to say or toÂ be sure to listen for regarding bad Christmas gifts.
5. Hey, Now there’s a gift!
4. If the dog buries this, I’ll be furious.
3. I love it – but fear the jealousy it will inspire.
2. Oh my, what a shame that this is the year that I vowed to give all my gifts to charity.
And the top comment resting in the number one spot regarding bad Christmas gifts is…
1. This is a perfect gift, for wearing around the house.
If you feel you may receive some unwarranted gifts this year you have a few days to practice your statements and to study up so if you hear any of these comments, you will know how the people you gave gifts to, really feel. Maybe though, you are not worried about giving or receiving the wrong gift. Perhaps you are like Pastor Scott Weber of Este Park, Co and just hope youÂ areÂ good enough to receive a gift at all.
This time of year you often hear the song, Santa Claus is Coming to Town. You know how it goes, “You better watch out, you better not pout, you better not cry, I’m telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town.
He’s making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty and nice, Santa Claus is coming to town.
He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.”
“I never liked that song as a kid”, says Scott. Â “You can’t fool Santa. He knows it all. Well, great! Then he knows that I lied about scratching the car with my bike. He knows that I hit my sister. He knows I was cussing up a storm with my friends down the street. He knows it all. That’s just great! What chance do I have for a decent Christmas present now? I might as well just keep on being bad.”
I had to laugh to myself as I read Scott’s memories because I too remember notÂ being fond ofÂ that song so much. It did seem that Santa was out to get us at every turn. As we enter the final week of Advent I imagine that there are some people who look at their lives and think that perhaps God is out to get them too.Â Maybe they feel they “better watch out” and “better be good” because He knows all. You better be on your best behavior all the time because you will not fool Him.
It is true that God does know all however if we look at God like this we will miss the greatest gift He has ever given us, the gift of love that He gave us with the sending of His son.
If we view God as a “gotcha God” then it will be really easy to throw our hands up in air and just give up. We will feel we have no chance because we are all bad and we all do things that we shouldn’t to varying degrees. But if we do that, if we viewÂ God as always out to get us, hiding around the corner,Â we miss the point of God’s grace. We miss the great abundance of love He gives us. We miss the wondrous gift that He gave us and the one in which we celebrate on Christmas day.
The gift of Jesus isn’t easy to understand and maybe we don’t really know how to accept and use the gift to its fullest capacity. Perhaps it is like the video that aired on America’s Funniest Home Videos a couple of years ago of a boy onÂ Christmas morning. He came down the stairs to see a large present beside the tree and ran over to tear itÂ open to see what was inside.Â Â The paper flew off of the box and suddenly he broke into a happy dance jumping around the room saying, “Wow just whatÂ I wanted. I really love it. Wow.” After a while he went back over to look atÂ theÂ giftÂ again and said with a puzzled look on his face, “What is it?”
The gift that God gave us is also sometimes seen in the same manner. It certainly was that first Christmas night when the angels announced the birth of a new child. The heavens opened and companies throughout broke into praise and thanksgiving. Shepherds raced to Bethlehem like mad men to see what it was all about while wise men began to travel from afar to make sense of all the celebrations of the heavens.
For over two thousand years we, like the little boy in the video, have been jumping around and yelling with excitement, “It is just what I wanted and exactly whatÂ I need.” But often in the next breath we are looking in the stable and asking, “What is it?” “How can I use it?” We are totally puzzled by this gift because it just doesn’t make sense to us. We cannot understand why or how God could love us so much that He would send His son to earth to live among us so that our sins are forgiven and we can live in heaven for eternity.
There has to be a catch. He must be watching for us to trip up. There has to be something because it is beyond our belief that God would love us so much to send this wondrous gift. Scripture however tells us different. There is no catch, God really does love us enough to send this gift and He did so not to judge us. This week’s focus verse is John 3:17 as we look toward the gift of love that God provides for us through Jesus Christ.
God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. John 3:17 (NLT)
Gifts – Returning the Most Wondrous One
It is so difficult for us to comprehend that God loves us so much that He wanted to show us by joining us on the earth. He allows us to identify with a God that understands us because He became one of us. This action was not so He could judge us for what we do but to show a better way of life. The problem is that for our human minds we simply cannot make sense of the, “why”, reason He would do this. Sometimes though it is not about “why”, it is about love.
There was a great theologian who came to the United States from England some years ago andÂ an interview took place by a group of seminary students.Â One question was, “What is the most profound thought that ever occupied your mind?” The answer was, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”
We can study all the things of the world to whatever level we may wish but we will neverÂ experience anything more profound than to understand that God loves us so much that He gave His only Son to save us for our own wrong doings. He is not out to “get us”.Â He came to save the world not to judge it. (John 12:47)
So how do weÂ receive this wondrous gift? There areÂ three ways we should graciously receive the gift that God offers us.
- Accept the gift. All we have to do is “believe and receive” for this gift to belong to us. It is entirely up to our own free will to reach out and take the gift.
When we accept the gift we must put the gift in its proper place which is above our own self-inducedÂ priorities. We must focus on this gift utilizing it in everything we do.
Learn to understand how much God loves us no matter what the world may tell us.
This glorious and wondrous gift that God has given us should most definitely be returned to Him each and every day. There is no greater way to accept the gift of love than to return it with enthusiasm. By returning God’s gift we are focusing on pleasing God all the time which will deepen our relationship with Christ.
I will close with a Christmas story of two little girls and their family who know all gifts come from God but the greatest of them all was the gift He brought us on Christmas day.
Lee was a reporter for the Chicago Tribune and a self-professed atheist. He found himself sitting at this desk on Christmas Eve reminiscing about the Delgado family that he had featured while writing a series of articles about Chicago’s neediest people a few days earlier.Â The family consisted of a grandmother and her two grandchildren who were the ages of 13 and 11.
He wasÂ much unprepared for what he saw when he arrived to their two bedroom apartment in Chicago to conductÂ the interview.Â The halls and walls were bare. There was no furniture orÂ rugs; there was nothing but a kitchen table and a handful of rice in the cupboards.
He learned during the interview that the two children, girls, only had one short-sleeved dress a piece and a thin gray sweater that they shared. On cold days when the girls walked the half-mile to school, one of the girls would start with the sweater and then give it to the other at the halfway mark. It was all they had and they learned to make do. The grandmother wanted more for her grandchildren and would have gladly worked but because of her health and age work was too difficult and painful.
Lee decided since the news was slow that day he would ride over to the Delgado’s and check on how they were doing. When he arrived one of the girls answered the door and he couldn’t believe what he saw. His article he wrote on the Delgado’s had touched the hearts of many subscribers and they in turn had responded with furniture, appliances, and rugs along with dozens of coats, scarves, and gloves.
The girls would no longer have to share a sweater. There were cartons and cartons of food everywhere. They had so much food the cupboards and closets couldn’t contain it. Someone had even donated a Christmas tree and under it were mounds of presents and thousands of dollars inÂ cash.
Flabbergasted was LeeÂ but what was more amazing to him was what he found the Delgado’s doing. They were preparing to give most of it away. “Why would you give so much of this away?”Â Lee asked. The senior Delgado replied, “Our neighbors are still in need. We cannot have plenty while they have nothing. This is what Jesus would want us to do.”
After slowly finding his voice he asked Grandmother Delgado another question. He wanted to know what she and the girls thought about the generosity shown to them. Again Lee was not prepared for the answer. She said, “This is wonderful and it is very good.” We did nothing to deserve this; it is all a gift from God. But,” she added, “It is not his greatest gift. No, we will celebrate that tomorrow. It is the gift of Jesus.
Lee left as he was speechless and drove back to the office. In the deafeningÂ silence of his car he noted a couple of things;
He had plenty and with it plenty of anxiety, while the Delgado’s had nothing and plenty of peace.
He had plenty yet wanted more,Â but the Delgado’s had nothing and yet knew generosity.
Lee had it all and yet his life was bare. The Delgado’s had nothing yet their life was rich with hope, contentment, and a spiritual certainty.
Lee had so much more than the Delgado’s yet deeply longed for what they had in their poverty.
The Delgado’s had accepted God’s gift of love and in return they had what they needed to make it through each day. Their life was poor in materialistic items but it was rich in the things that made life worth living. The greatest wondrous gift has been given and all we have to do is accept it and then line up to return it fully. This will be the return line that we will never want to get out of for as we return it to God we will find ourselves returning and sharing this wondrous gift of love with everyone.
Merry Christmas to all of you and your families!
Love in Christ,
Post Script; I read a good tongue in cheek Christmas version poem of 1 Corinthians 13 by Sharon JaynesÂ and thought I would share since it was about love.
1 Corinthians 13 ”“ a Christmas Version
If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child. Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband. Love is kind, though harried and tired. Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out-of-the-way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way. Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure.
What are Your Thoughts on the Gift of Love? Join Us in discussion.
Do you find it difficult to accept gifts? Have you accepted the wondrous gift of love given to us by God? Do you find it hard to realize that God did not send His son to judge us but to save the world through Him? Join us in discussion on the topic of the wondrous gift of love or other related topics.