Open those gifts!
IT’S CHRISTMAS MORNING as I send this. In addition to Christmas Eve services and what I hope you experienced as a quiet peace when you lit a candle and sang Silent Night or another great Christmas carol, I imagine you also remember reindeer and cookies and milk as a part of your childhood traditions. By now, however, I’m going to guess you’ve figured out how Santa works.
Somehow our culture continues to succeed in promoting Christmas as a ‘gifts under the tree’ thing when, in the generosity of God as His greatest gift to us, I encourage you today to think beyond what cannot be bought, wrapped, and stuffed under a lit evergreen tree.
Let me share the kind of gift I am talking about as an example by sharing with you one of my greatest gifts, my brother. Recently, my brother was given about three minutes to speak in a vitally important place where ordinarily he would not be given the opportunity.
Before I share more about this opportunity, here’s a little backstory on my brother. My brother weaves scripture into 80% of what he is talking about. He isn’t preachy in a way some think of negatively; verses just flow from the conversation he is in with someone. For example, be it reindeer, chimneys, or cookies and milk with Santa, my brother will reference a verse or two germane to the point at hand. This just happens. It’s a Bubba thing.
[My brother’s boyhood nickname is Bubba.]
I mention this because when Bubba (a.k.a. Robert) was invited to speak, he could not mention, given the location, the New Testament. So, he literally went into this with one arm tied behind his back. But he did groundbreaking work. Outstanding work. And I was there. Tears of pride and joy flowed that day. I am immensely proud of him.
My brother is one of my greatest gifts. I can open this gift every single day. I can get a tear or two just thinking about him if you give me a moment on a wobbly day. He’s that good.
You have wonderful people in your world, too. You do. Yes, something may need to be fixed. Forgiveness may need to be extended. Realignments may need to occur, and this may all be on you (even though in your story with this person nothing is your wrongdoing); but here’s the real deal this Christmas: your best gifts, like mine, do no fit under any tree.
Okay, disclaimer: my brother would fit under most trees for a while, and, without much coaxing, would wear a bow on his forehead.
Maybe some of your gifts have popped into your head as you’re reading this very sentence. Maybe some of your gifts will come a little later. As simple as this sounds (because it is, indeed, simple), it may have been some time since you’ve thought of That Special Someone as your gift.
We’ve all been kids, and we know this: the deep, overwhelming, oh-it’s-exciting to have Christmas feeling we’ve experienced because we get toys on this special day has changed over time. The hula-hoop, monster truck, sled and bicycle aren’t the presents that have made Your Best Gifts Ever list because, if you’re like me, you’ve never thought about Your Best Ever Gift list. Why? Because you realize that it isn’t what is under the tree. Instead, it’s why we have the tree, and we have the tree and the presents because of Jesus.
And those presents don’t stop because it’s not just why we have the tree; God has blessed us with who is around the tree. Maybe they are in different houses this morning, but our gifts are our children, our family, and our extended family. Family is also extended. Of course, you’re thinking of your friends because your buds complete you. And you know this is true. Often your ‘besties’ know you better than you know yourself. They stop everything so they can help you anytime and anywhere help is needed.
Some of us have gifts that are no longer here. We can’t call or text them, pop in or move in for a hug. If you give me a fifteen second diversion, I would like to share one of the worst things that can happen at a funeral or memorial service is when someone says, “It is time to say goodbye.”
There is never a goodbye with someone you love. The Apostle Paul says, “Love never fails (I Cor 13:8).” Some versions say ‘love never ends.’ To me, this means death doesn’t conquer love. Yes, we commission and bless the gift of the body during a funeral or memorial service. Yes, we thank God for the vehicle God gave the one we love to use, but goodbye? I am going to go with a “No” on this one, and I invite you to do the same.
One more bathrobe, oven mitt, or roll of US Postal stamps wrapped creatively may make you eat all of Santa’s cookies by yourself in the hope that the sugar rush gets you through a less than ideal gift exchange moment, but still, do this for me. Open all of your presents this Christmas, those wonderful people God has blessed you with. All of them. Some are a room or two away right now. Some are across town. Some are a call away. Some you can’t call, but know they truly have made your Best Ever Gift list, and you’re blessed because they blessed you while they were here.
So, Christmas is more than what is under your tree, and God gave us Christmas today. So go ahead, open those gifts.