Saturday, November 23, 2013

NO GIFTS! REALLY?


Definition of a gift.


This time of year is always hard.  For everyone.  There is so much hussle and bussle going on that often times we miss the purpose of this season.

  One of the biggest frustrations I have is the excuse that someone can't give a gift.  We can spend all year doing things for ourselves, then when it comes down to Christmas, all of a sudden gifts are not possible.  The most commonly used excuse I have been told is "people just get what they want themselves anyway."

  Since when did giving a gift at anytime, but even Christmas, become optional?  I must have missed something.  Isn't the whole reason we celebrate Christ's birth is because HE was God's gift to us? Didn't the wisemen understand that gift enough to bring gifts of their own to honor Christ and the sacrifice He would pay for us?  Aren't we given the GIFT OF SALVATION?

We didn't know we needed a Savior.  We didn't know we wanted Him to come.  The Bible says that EVERY good and perfect gift is from above.  Christ was the PERFECT gift given to us in the town of Bethlehem on the PERFECT night for the PERFECT reason.  GOD LOVES US!  He desires a relationship with HIS creation and to have that, a price had to be paid. 

  GOD could have decided to pay that price anyway He chose.  He is God!  He didn't have to give us anything.  He didn't have to make the sacrifices for us so that we could be saved.  He gave us the PERFECT gift. His Son.

 I LOVE CHRISTMAS!!!!  I love everything about it.  I was once told I have an "old soul." To me that just means I long for the days where life was more meaningful than now.  People cared about the sentimental.  Families cared more about each other than what they wanted for themselves. 

I start with Christmas music early.  If I didn't get harassed so much about it, I would listen mostly all year.  I used to.  There is a magic I can't explain when I think about Christmas.  I plan for it, pray for it, hope for it and spend each day grateful for the season.  For me, Christmas is so much more than the lights, trees, songs, or anything else. 

I have been in hard places.  I have never been in a financial place that afforded me to spend freely on gifts.  I have never let that be an excuse though.  I painfully, lovingly, prayfully consider each person that is on my list.  I want to bless them, show that I love them and make sacrifices to show them they mean something to me.  They meant my time, resources, wishes and love.  It isn't about what gift is given, but that I gave them one.

This is the most hurtful part of Christmas for me.  In an effort to "ease the burden of gift giving" many in my life have chosen not to do gifts at all.  I have been told anywhere from "gifts aren't important" to "gifts are really for the little ones," and my favorite, "everyone just gets what they want anyway."  ALL excuses to be selfish.

Yes, I said that.  It is selfish not to give a gift.  Christmas is about gifts.  Not fancy gadget gifts or expensive gifts.  It can be the simple gift of time.  A gift that is spent OF YOURSELF for someone else.  It can be plate of someone's favorite cookies, or a cup of coffee and an hour of time you might not have had.  It can be a small gesture of kindness to someone in line behind you, or a BIG gift for someone who has a great need.

Gifts can come in any shape, size or cost.  But that is just it.  A gift should cost you something.  A gift is an act of love, self-LESS love to show someone else that you LOVE them.  It is the ultimate love language, and one I whole-heartedly believe, should NEVER be taken lightly or for granted.

The gifts I given are carefully chosen and cost my time and resources.  I work for months on figuring out what would bless each person on my list.  Does it mean that I have EVERYONE on my list, no.  I have limits, but I don't have limits on giving. There are many people I love that I don't give a tangible gift to. It doesn't mean that I don't give up something for them.  The ones that I care about and want to bless, I do it other ways.  Each effort I make to show someone they are worth my time, my love and my friendship is a gift to them.  It may be a simple card in the mail with a message of love and encouragement to them-handwritten.  It could be baking goodies for a large group to share.  That gift could simply be just spending time with that person when I wouldn't otherwise.

Each gift is part of a ministry for me. I want my gifts to others to be meaningful.  I want gifts too.  I am not ashamed to say it.  I want someone to care enough to think about what would bless me.  I want to know our relationship is important enough to sacrifice for.  It doesn't have to be expensive to be a sacrifice.  It should be something that costs; requires you to give up part of your own desires for the pleasure of another. God did that for me.  What reason do any of us have NOT to do that for someone else?

Christ was the greatest gift.  It cost God so much to give me that gift.  WHY DID HE?  Because.  I am loved and I am important to Him.  A relationship with me for eternity was worth the sacrifice!  Who am I to then decide Christmas isn't about gifts?  Who do I think I am to decide that we don't need gifts?  How would we respond if God chose to give us the same excuses we use with each other? 

I have a gift that I was given a few years ago.  It is a precious gift to me.  It is something that is rare and cannot be replaced.  It is just a thing.  It only holds value to me.  It's value does not come from what the item is, but in who the giver was.  This person took TIME to be creative.  They gave me something that I could use, love and pass down to my children.  It required them to do something they would otherwise do.  To me, it is a gift I treasure.  I think of them and the care they took to MAKE something for me.  I am careful with it.  It meant something to them to give me that gift.  I want my gifts that I give to be received in such a way too.  It is the spirit in which I give.

In our day now, finances are tight for everyone.  I know for sure they are for us.  I don't have oodles of cash to do everything I want or need to do.  I don't let that be what stops me from doing things for others.  It hurts so deeply that I can watch others keep themselves busy pursuing what they want, but given a chance to GIVE, it is too much and they can't.  I can watch on the sidelines of people taking trips, buying stuff, and keeping up with their hobbies. Then in a split second they are too broke or busy to "do gifts." I don't presume to understand every situation, but when your life is lived in such a way that you can serve yourself but can't serve others, that has crossed a line. 

As believers we are called to serve.  We are called to carry each other's burdens.  Whole churches who didn't have anything gave everything to minister to Paul so he could continue.  I don't understand when others miss a chance to minister to someone else.  When we have nothing others share with us.  We share with others no matter if we have plenty or nothing.  That is a gift.

What will you do with gifts this year?  It is ok to make something, or the item is small.  Make it useful and a blessing.  Remember God's greatest gift to us as the motivation for others.  Don't shut out the blessings just because you don't have enough money to buy what they want.  Do put a limit on God and how he can use you this season and every day to GIVE of yourself to others.