“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” — James 1.17
Several Christmases ago Bryan and his sister Kay decided to exchange gifts — a practice they had abandoned years before. They decided since they were both spending the holidays with their parents, for the sake of nostalgia, to include each other on their gift list.
But on Christmas morning Bryan was mortified when he opened Kay’s present. She had given him an incredible gift: season tickets to the San Diego Chargers! Suddenly he wished they had discussed spending limits. He wasn’t exactly sure how much she had invested, but he knew it was considerably more than he spent on the pot-holders he bought for her. Even though Kay is two years younger than Bryan, she was already established as an accountant for a Big Eight firm while he was still in college. Bryan recognized that she was far more financially secure than he was, but had not expected such an extravagant gift.
When Kay opened her present, she took the pot-holders out of the box, held them up, looked at them, glanced back in the box to see if she had overlooked something and then once again focused on the pot-holders. She smiled and said sincerely, “Oh…these are so nice, Bryan, thank you very much.”
Bryan felt terrible. He was embarrassed for being broke, and angry at himself for not giving a more heart-felt gift. He later said, “The only thing that could have made it worse was if she had told me that she sold her pots and pans to pay for the tickets.”
Later that day, when they were alone, Bryan told his sister how uncomfortable he was about the gifts. She punched him on the shoulder and like a typical accountant said, “Don’t be silly. When you compare my income to your income, on a percentage basis you paid more for the pot-holders than I did for the Chargers tickets.” (And when you consider how the Chargers were playing, the pot-holders were arguably a better value!)
It was little consolation. Bryan determined to even the score for her birthday, which was less than a month away. He climbed into his parent’s attic and began rummaging through boxes, searching for tangible memories of their childhood. He spent three weeks putting together a scrapbook containing cards they had made for their parents, bookmarks from Vacation Bible School, pictures from church camp, grade school report cards, notes from old boyfriends…you get the idea.
He gave her the scrapbook for her birthday, with a note that said, “The greatest Christmas gift I ever received came 26 days late. It was delivered on January 19, 1972, and I have treasured it ever since.” Bryan couldn’t match Kay’s gift dollar for dollar; he could give only love in return.
Two thousand years ago we were given a gift at Christmas. The gift is Emmanuel: “God with us.”
Matthew wrote: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1.22)
There is no possible way we can match the value of His gift with money, words, deeds or penance, nor can we become worthy of it. An entire lifetime of service does not begin to balance the scale. We can only accept it, and offer in return the gift of ourselves. The wonderful truth is, it is the only gift God really wants.
The Christmas hymn written by Christina Rosetti (1872) reminds us of this…
What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man, I would do my part;
Yet, what I can I give Him, give Him my heart!
The love of God reaches from a manager in Bethlehem to the cross at Calvary; it reached my heart and I trust, to yours.
Have a blessed Christmas,
Dr. Greg Morris