Over the years, I have received hundreds of Christmas gifts. Each Christmas morning was exciting and I continue to look forward to ripping open packages and watching my family rip open their packages. However, if you asked me to name twenty of the gifts I have received in the last five years, I would probably struggle to remember them. Not because I did not appreciate them, but because life has a way of making us forget. Some gifts stand out, but the majority of them slip our minds.
So, should we throw in the towel and stop giving gifts because no one will remember them anyway? No, not at all. ~smile~ Even knowing that most of my carefully selected purchases will not be remembered fondly with tears of joy, I will continue giving gifts as long as God allows me to do so. The prospect of seeing my loved ones smile is exciting, even if the actual item is forgotten in six months (or days). Sharing the warmth of the holidays and showing them that I love them is what matters; and, even though I do not remember every gift I have ever been given, I do remember the joy, happiness, and warmth of family Christmases. ~smile~
Only What is Done for Christ Will Last
We have a week to go before the Big Day arrives. We spend months preparing for it and then it comes and goes in a flash. Maybe this year’s Christmas season does not have to pass by so quickly though. Maybe we can give something that will extend beyond Christmas Day.
When I was in middle school, I helped my dad and my mom’s teaching assistant deliver Christmas gifts to a family in need. A little boy in mom’s class commented that he would not be receiving any presents that year, and upon further investigation, Mom realized the family was experiencing a major financial struggle.
Though I do not remember where all the gifts came from, I do remember there were many. We pulled up to the house and the mother met us at the door. She welcomed us into their home which was quite bare, and as we brought in boxes of gifts, she cried, “Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus.” All three of us left feeling deeply touched by the experience. We were not the givers. We were simply the couriers. However, I received more from that moment than I have in the last seven Christmases. There is simply nothing like the feeling of taking someone’s hand and offering a bit of hope.
It made me want to experience more of that feeling. What was in those packages is probably long gone by now, but the gesture lives on. The gifts themselves were not the point. The love behind them was the point. I hope that family saw Christ’s love as they opened their packages that year.
Dad’s Sad Christmas Morning
Doing something meaningful for someone else can also involve a small, pre-surprise prank. A number of Christmases ago, before my maternal grandmother passed away, Dad was in great “need” of a curio cabinet to display his car collection. If my memory serves me, he spoke of this need often and it was clear to us that nothing would excite him more on Christmas morning than a place to show off his stacks of vintage model sports cars.
Obviously, there is no easy way to hide a ginormous furniture box, so our neighbors housed it in their garage and delivered it to our porch Christmas morning. So Dad would have something to open, Mom wrapped a knife set (not the manly, outdoors kind; rather, the kitchen kind – the kind he had no particular use for) and slapped his name on it. He opened it, attempted to appear happy with it, and waited as the rest of us opened our gifts.
Feeling sorry for him as he lay on the coach looking like a disappointed school boy, my mom’s mom could not let the charade go on any longer. She asked him, “Jack, could you help me to the truck with my gifts?” As he opened the door, he took a look to his left, looked at us, looked back at the box, and smiled. He finally had his curio cabinet… and a new set of kitchen knives. ~smile~
Singing and Serving at a Homeless Shelter Days before Christmas
A few Christmases ago, Mom enlisted my help at the local homeless shelter. Our friend, Martha, and several others from her Hispanic ministry were providing a meal and giving out some gifts. As is typically the case when I do not have all the facts, I was a bit nervous. Martha was expecting me to sing and I had no accompaniment.
This was no time for me-centered perfectionism. I was not singing for accolades. The point was to glorify God and to bring some Christmas cheer to folks who were going through a difficult time. In my nervous panic, I collected several others to sing with me. Let me tell you, we sounded terrible! But, it did not matter. The heart behind the songs was what mattered.
Perhaps what touched my heart the most were the two gentlemen who approached us and asked for prayer. The group prayed and I saw tears falling from one man’s eyes. They were not requesting food, money, or anything more… just prayer. That experience has settled in my heart and I hope I do not forget it. Sometimes people are looking for a hand out; but, many are looking for hope, a hug, a handshake, someone to appreciate them, and a simple prayer. Even as I write this, I pray for those two men – that God will restore them, save them, and bless their lives.
Christmas is Almost Here!
Merry Christmas! It is on its way. Will you do something kind for someone today? Whether it is a funny Christmas surprise, a tender extension of Christmas hope, or a life-changing gift, consider what you can do this year to make Christmas 2015 unforgettable to someone else – and to you as well.
“To God be the glory, great things He hath done,
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life our redemption to win,
And opened the life-gate that all may go in.”
– Fanny Jane Crosby
How will you make this Christmas go down in history?