Every good endowment and perfect gift is from Above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
James 1:17
Every year, I try to come up with a different theme for the Prayer Team for the weeks that precede Christmas. For this year, I want to focus on the subject of gifts. Gifts are becoming synonymous with stress. There is stress as the “shopping days left” countdown shows fewer and fewer days. There is stress to fight traffic at the mall. And for those who prefer on-line shopping, there is the stress of is what we pick out really going to look like the ad. Add to this the rising prices of gifts and will people even like the gifts we get them, and gift-giving just stresses most of us out, including me.
The gift of Christmas is the gift of Jesus Christ coming into the world, the Creator coming to live with the creation, the wall of separation between man and God coming down, and the door to salvation opening up. We’ve lost sight of these gifts in a world that either ridicules them or doesn’t think about them, or worships at the altar of anything besides that of our Lord. For this Christmas, I want to focus on Him, and how we can gift Him to one another.
Everything that is good has its origin from God. Everything that is bad has its origin from a world that is fallen. The fallen world has people who make bad decisions, disasters in nature (like hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.) as well as a state of imperfection (imperfect air, imperfect water, imperfect gene pools) that can seemingly strike anyone at any time.
We all like when good things happen to us. And we don’t like it when bad things happen. In fact, we resent it, we think it’s unfair. When something good happens, we’ve become conditioned to think that we are almost entitled for good things to happen. Instead of considering gifts to be blessings, we consider them entitlements. And instead of seeing bad things as challenges or maybe even setbacks, they become cause for anger.
The world is losing sight of God as the giver of the good gifts as well as being the one who helps us in the challenging times. Rather, we tend to blame God for the shortcomings and congratulate ourselves for the good things.
In beginning to discuss gifts, it would be helpful to see gifts as blessings from God. And it would be helpful to see good things not as entitlements, but as gifts. For instance, if you woke up today, that’s a gift. We should thank God for the day He has gifted us. If you are reading this message, it is a result of many blessings—you are alive, you had parents who took you to school, teachers who taught you how to read, engineers who put together the device you are reading off of, money you earned by using a God-giving talent to buy the device, etc. Our ability to read a simple message is a result of many good things that have happened in a certain sequence, and the origin of all of it is God. That doesn’t mean we are puppets on a string and that God is our puppet-master. It means that God provides gifts and means and that we use these gifts to create other gifts and possibilities with them.
As we read in James 1:17, “every good endowment and perfect gift is from Above, coming down from the Father of lights.” In this season of gift-giving, instead of being stressed about what we will get for others and what they might get for us, we should recognize first and foremost that the people around us are gifts in themselves, rather than obligations or boxes to check. The gifts we buy are created by people who use their talents to create clothes, pots and pans, technological devices, toys and whatever other things we are going to buy. The cars that will carry us to the stores and the technology that allows us to buy things on line are gifts. And when people get gifts for us, it is because they consider us gifts to them. The season of gifts should be a season of joy. We are surrounded by the handiwork of God, used by us, His children, to bring joy to one another. This is what should be the spirit of the season, rather than a spirit of stress and commercialism.
In my humble opinion, the best gifts are the gifts that money cannot buy. (well, with the exception of toys that little kids want). The best gifts are the things that come directly from God—the gift of time. If time is indeed a blessing from God, sharing that blessing of time with someone else is a gift. If people are a blessing from God—our families, our friends—then spending time with family and friends is a gift. And expressing our thanks and our joy to our family and friends is a great way to express what a blessing they are for us. Saying it is important. Writing it down is timeless, a gift that keeps on giving. Rather than stressing out about the perfect family picture for a Christmas card, perhaps spend time writing short heartfelt messages to those who are gifts in your life.
Whatever you do regarding gifts this next month, remember that every good gift does not originate in a catalogue or commercial. It comes from God Himself.
Lord, thank You for the gift of Your Son Jesus Christ, Who came down from heaven to earth to live with us and to show us the path back to Paradise. Thank You for the gift of life that enables me to make this journey. Thank You for another year You have gifted me, to experience this season once again. Thank You for the people with whom I will make this journey—family and friends. Help me to keep my focus on the true reason for the season, and to keep my focus when it comes to gifts on You, as the provider of every good and perfect one. Guide me to celebrate this year with more focus and purpose, whether it is celebrating the Gift of Your Nativity, or the gift of those around me who will share in this year’s journey. Amen.
Let’s work this Nativity season to change our perspective on gifts—first, that the greatest gift of this season is the gift of Jesus Christ; second, that every good and perfect gift is from Above; and third, the gift of others is gift enough, because there is no better gift to give others than time with them, and expressing our joyful sentiments about them to them.