Have you ever received a gift you didn’t particularly like? I think most of us can recall such an item. As a teenager I once received a particularly memorable pair of pants. They were hot pink with white polka dots, ankle length and billowed around my legs like clown pants… they didn’t scream vogue! I am sure I said, “Thank you” but those words may have been hard to get out. It was a gift I didn’t expect, and initially didn’t know what to do with.
In my house, I am the one who does the majority of the Christmas shopping. On the whole I love this task. I love thinking about each person I’m buying for and what they would love most. I’m a gift giver at heart and it gives me enormous pleasure to do this. It’s a beautiful moment when you give an unexpected gift, and it’s received with much delight. However, there are some drawbacks to being a gift giver. The high benchmark I place on myself to find that perfect present means, potentially hours spent searching, resignation if the dream is impossible and inevitable disappointment if the gift isn’t loved. It’s in moments like these I wish I didn’t care so much and that the expectations of others were simple.
I’ve just finished reading Ann Voskamp’s book, ‘One Thousand Gifts’, and for anyone who appreciates vivid word imagery and passion, I would recommend this book. She challenges the reader to find beauty in the everyday ordinary and to worship God by receiving and giving thanks for the things he gives – the things we find to be good, the things we deem bad and the things we find mundane and simple. Her exhortation to receive and be thankful is notable, as her personal story of loss and grief, makes her choice to receive and give thanks incredible.
The season of Advent is one that is punctuated with presents. Ask any child and they will say that’s what they are most looking forward to. Sadly, this tradition can accentuate for some of us a feeling of disillusionment and discouragement…the commercial overload, shopping madness, the impossible demand of finding the perfect present, the disparity between our wealth and the poverty of so many and the disgusting waste of over-consumption. It’s enough to put you off Christmas.
But…the season of Advent is actually all about God’s most wonderful gift to all of humanity. His gift wasn’t wrapped in shiny paper and placed under an impressive Christmas tree. It was wrapped in swaddling clothes and was found in an animals feeding trough (a manger). His gift didn’t max out a credit card, but it was the most costly gift ever to be given. In John 3 vs 16 it says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him should not die but have eternal life.”
Jesus…a present that at first sight might not have been what you were expecting – a baby born to lowly, simple folk. But don’t turn away, take a closer look. This gift from God is worth taking the time to unwrap. You won’t be disappointed. Jesus is a surprising gift of unconditional love, hope and salvation. Receive him, and give thanks.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!