Gifts poured out…
I love buying gifts. I’d rather give than receive any day. Picking out gifts that I just know will move someone’s heart, or brighten their day or lighten their load excites me and brings a fullness of joy I could never adequately describe.
The first Christmas that Ryan and I were married was a tough one. I live to celebrate people, to lavish my love and gifts on them. Ryan lives to create order and steward well. Celebrating isn’t on his radar and gift giving is often focused on getting the most bang for your buck (which is awesome and frees me to give far more than I ever could if he wasn’t the gifted financial wizard that he is).
It was the first Christmas I ever got to shop for a little girl. I had spent literally months thinking of what I wanted to get for Ryan and Julie. I was thrilled and could not wait to start stopping. I bought him clothes, a microphone hairbrush for Julie, and a million little things I just knew they’d love. Ryan scoured Julie’s list over a thousand times but couldn’t find microphone hairbrush on it anywhere. Why in the world had I bought a microphone hairbrush? The clothes I bought him weren’t made of the right blend of materials, the neck on this one was unflattering, I spent how much on this gift? Christmas boxers? Why in the world would he need Christmas boxers? He wasn’t excited to open gifts. He wasn’t anxious to take all of his new things out of the boxes and play with them. In fact, he took it all back later. Each of the gifts he had purchased me had clearly been purchased with cost in mind. It was a grumpy, misunderstood Christmas morning and the beginning of my understanding of how differently we viewed the importance of gift giving.
When I was a teenager, there was this boy. He was very popular and many girls liked him. He wasn’t on my radar because I had mentally flagged him out of my league and moved on with life. But I caught his eye and he began to pursue me in creative, innocently fun and flattering ways. This had never happened to me. I wasn’t trying to get his attention and yet I had. This made it all the more meaningful for me. We “dated” I fell hard. As Valentine’s Day approached he began acting a little strange. I, of course, had been planning out my gift and saving my money for quite some time. I’d walked to the store to buy some of it and spent the better part of two weeks creating a life-sized card for him. I was out of my mind anxious to give it to him. We were scheduled to meet one morning to exchange our gifts but he blew it off with little explanation. I made special arrangements to get a ride to his house to bring them to him. I interrupted his man time, hanging out with friends. This was back in the day before it was a cultural norm to call out “awkward” but please believe me when I say that it was painfully awkward. He’d forgotten a gift for me and was anxious to get back to his friends. He had my best friend call and break up with me the next day. Didn’t he know how hard I worked? How many kids I’d babysat? How far I’d walked? How could the gifts I’d given not have value?
I was looking for the study guide that accompanies a book from one of my favorite authors. In the process, I stumbled onto some of the book reviews. I was excited to read about how it had changed other’s lives and rocked their worlds in the way that it had mine. Instead, my heart was broken as I read attacks, judgments, accusations, proclamations that this person was not even a Christian. I couldn’t wrap my brain around how someone could approach this precious gift that had been so beautifully, sacrificially offered and disregard it without hesitation. Didn’t they know what it had cost her to write these words? The time away from her family it had required? The willingness to bear her soul so that others might find hope and healing took my breath away, how could it not take theirs, also?
One Sunday morning, not too long ago I was earnestly worshiping God with all that was within me, pouring myself out before him. And here’s what he told me, “Your life poured out to me is a fragrant, beautiful offering, a treasure poured from an alabaster box.” Tears, so many tears. He saw the gift of my life and my praise that I was offering. He understood the price that was paid for it. It moved his heart. He loved it. He really loved the gift I was bringing. Speechless…
And I began to wonder…how much he must long for us to see the priceless value in the gifts he has given and continues to give us. How often are we like ungrateful school children on Christmas morning opening our presents and asking “Is this it? Didn’t I get anything else? I really wanted xyz.” How it must grieve his heart. He went to the cross, the CROSS to buy us salvation and hope and healing and joy and victory and peace but how often do we discard that gift like an ugly Christmas sweater and throw it into the top of our closet never to be seen again? How often does he wait with bated breath for us to find the gift he’s given us for this day and recognize it came from him only to watch us disregard it and complain about the gifts we didn’t get? No gift I’ve ever given was prepared with love like the gifts he gives. No gift I’ve ever given has cost me what he has cost him to give it. No gift I’ve ever given had the power to bring life where there is death like the gifts that Jesus went to the cross to give. How often do we let ourselves get lost in anticipation and joy and gratitude for his gifts? How often do we even realize that they came from him, and not our own striving?
When my favorite author set out to write her book and share her story, she knew it wouldn’t be received by all. Some would reject the gift she poured out, but she did it anyway- because love wouldn’t let her not do it. Love knew the rejection would be worth it because some WOULD recognize and accept that gift. When Jesus went to the cross he knew it would not be received by all. Some would reject the gift of his life poured out for them. But love wouldn’t let him not do it. Love knew it would be worth, for some WOULD accept the gift. So my question for us today is… What are we doing with the gifts both large and small that he has and is giving? Scattered across and interwoven with the tapestry of our lives, so beautifully blended we can’t always see it until we step back, what are we doing with them?
Lord, every good and perfect gift comes from you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. If we spent every breath praising you and thanking you, it would never be enough and yet you continue to give. Thank you for those gifts. We do recognize and ask you to give us eyes to see and walk in the fullness of all that you have given and continue to give us. The gift of your presence and of your love is more than our hearts could ever fully take in. We love you. Let us never take it for granted. In Jesus name, Amen.