What’s the greatest gift you’ve ever recieved?
What comes to mind? A birthday gift? A Christmas gift? Clothing? Books? A toy, game, or gadget? Maybe you’re thinking of a heartfelt and meaningful card. Maybe a trip, a ticket to an event, or an outing with a friend or family member?
Whatever it was, it must have meant a lot to you. Was it something you wanted for a long time? Was it something you’d never even thought of, but someone else knew you well enough to know you’d appreciate it? What made it memorable and meaningful?
Over the years, I’ve been so very blessed by loved ones. I’ve received too many meaningful gifts to count, and I don’t think I can ever express my gratitude for them all. One thing I’ve found from my own experience is that the more someone else has sacrificed to provide the gift for me, the more it means to me.
To think that someone would give up that much of their salary, or their time, or their energy, into giving me something I’d appreciate blows me away. I don’t deserve it, and I don’t know how to repay them. Often, all I can say is ‘thank you’, and it just doesn’t feel like enough.
Thoughts of gifts are prominent on most people’s minds this time of year. Gift exchanges have either already passed, or are approaching quickly, and thoughts are frenzied; searching for the perfect gift for that special someone, and maybe thinking of the gift you’d like to receive, too.
It’s so easy, at least for me, to fall into the trap of wanting that gift for someone to be perfect. Often, I get so wrapped up (pun intended) in making the gift flawless, that I am too hesitant to get any at all. What if they don’t like it? What if they think I’m too cheap, or clumsy, or uncreative? What if they view a mediocre gift as a representation of how I feel about our friendship?
It may sound silly, but as much as I love gift-giving, it can be stressful for me, sometimes.
In addition, I’ve always struggled with knowing how to receive gifts. What if I don’t thank them enough? What if I thank them too much and they think I’m being fake? What if I don’t react the way they expect me too and they’re disappointed?
As I sat down to think about Christmas gifts for my family this year, these thoughts flittered through my mind again, and it occurred to me that maybe I’m complicating things too much. Maybe, instead of worrying about every little detail of every gift, I should be focusing on the heart behind it. Maybe, rather than ensuring the bow is tied perfectly and the color, brand, and/or model is just right, maybe I should just make sure that it’s given out of love.
And what better example of a gift given out of love, than the one given to us 2,000 years ago?
It’s difficult for me to process the depth of love that inspired the very first Christmas gift. It wasn’t a toy, a ticket, or a type of clothing. It was a person. A person that loved us so much, He was willing to come from Heaven, from His position of power, glory, and magnificence, and take the form of a human baby. The weakest position He could have taken. For us.
The other day, as I was marveling at this, I heard something that really awed me…
The baby that Mary birthed created her.
Stop and think about it. I had to. Jesus designed Mary when she was in her mother’s womb, and then He grew in hers. He asked obedience of her, and then obeyed her during His childhood. For His sake, He asked her to sacrifice much, such as her reputation after others found out she was pregnant – and then He gave the ultimate sacrifice for her. For all of us.
I’ve always struggled with comprehending this. It seems impossible for me to understand…well, any of it. I don’t understand how God could love us so much, despite all our rebellion. I don’t understand how He could give up His Son for us. I don’t understand how Jesus could love us so much to willingly give Himself up.
And yet, it’s true.
He loves us. He’s always loved us. He will always continue to love us. And because of that love, He was willing to endure unspeakable torment, suffering, and agony, to offer us His gift of salvation.
He loves me. He loves you. The love He has for each and every one of us boggles my mind. If it was only you – one person – that needed His gift of salvation, Jesus would have gone through all the pain just the same. In a heartbeat. If it was only me. If it was only any one of us.
From my – human – perspective, Jesus’ birth doesn’t appear perfect, as I prefer my gifts for others to be. I wouldn’t have chosen for Him to come to Earth as a weak and helpless infant. I wouldn’t have chosen for Him to have poor and culturally insignificant parents, or to be born among animals in a stable. I wouldn’t have chosen for Him to grow as everyone else, working hard for a living and obeying authorities He put in place.
I certainly wouldn’t have chosen for Him to die. Never. And never in such a horrific way.
But that’s just what He did. He chose sacrifice. He chose to give up splendor, praise, and majesty, for weakness, ridicule, and pain. He exchanged His crown of glory for one of thorns. From the highest position of the universe, He descended to the lowest.
And He did it for us. To save us. To offer us eternity in His presence, free of pain, and sin, and torment. All because of His beautiful, constant, and everlasting love.
That’s the greatest gift I’ve ever received.
It’s the greatest gift anyone could ever receive.
When I compare the gifts I’m giving to the one Jesus gave, I realize they can never measure up. They can’t even come close. And that’s okay! The more I realize that my gifts are just specks compared to His, the more free I feel.
I’m finding that what matters is not the gift’s perfection, but the giver’s motive.
So especially in this holiday season, as gift-giving abounds, I’m going to focus not on making every detail perfect in my eyes, but on giving each and every gift out of love. To recognize that each and every gift is an opportunity to share the love Jesus continues to give. To remember that, in the long run, it’s not the packaging or the particular object that really matters. It’s the love with which I give it.
And that carries over to receiving gifts, as well. If others give me gifts, it’s because they too are sharing love. And with a full heart, I’m going to do my best to accept them with sincere and overflowing thankfulness, just as I have received Jesus’ gift of salvation.
Have you received that gift?
If you have, my heart is so full of joy for you. I’m so blessed to call you my brother or sister in Christ, and to know that we will both spend eternity in the presence of the One who has given everything for us.
And if you have yet to receive that precious gift… It’s not too late. The God of the Universe is still giving it this Christmas; offering it with open arms and a welcoming smile.
His is a gift wrapped not with paper, but with love.
And it has your name on it.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
(John 3:16 NIV)