Love Gifts at Christmas

cindy-richardsonBreathlessly I waited as my brother opened the door to our family room to what I hoped would be Christmas heaven.

Old enough to remember the splendor of the prior Christmas, I expected more of the same. My brother would pass out the presents and we would pile them up around us.

Part of the fun was watching each other open presents; eagerly anticipating what wonderful gift might be in each beautifully wrapped package.

With one swift motion the door opened. Instead of wrapped presents under the tree, my gaze fell on clothes and a few toys laid neatly in piles. Not a single gift was wrapped!

Names were written on masking tape and placed strategically on each item. Disappointment came over me like a wet blanket. Why weren’t the presents wrapped?

It was not the Christmas I expected. Already suspecting that Santa was just fantasy, the lack of wrapping seemed to answer the question I was afraid to ask. If Santa was real, our presents would be wrapped; his elves would never forget to wrap presents.

Perhaps my crestfallen look led to the terse conversation I overheard.

“I told you we should have bought the wrapping paper,” my mother whispered to my father.

“And I told you, wrapping paper is a waste of money,” my father replied.

My childish disappointment at the lack of wrapping almost ruined Christmas that year. I had no idea declining health had led to my father’s job loss and mounting medical bills. The dwindling budget dictated the naked presents.

As I reflect back I realize my parents sacrificed greatly to give us any gifts at all. I now know they were given out of great love for us. Most of the presents were gifts we needed. Unfortunately, they weren’t appreciated as much as the gifts we wanted.

Another Christmas gift was given at great sacrifice. Wrapping himself in love, God became a human being. Entering our world as a baby, Jesus was the gift of God’s presence. Immanuel, God is with us.

Jesus is the gift everyone needs, but not everyone wants.

Joseph didn’t want the gift at first. Disappointed and worried about their reputation, when he found out Mary was pregnant he wanted to break off the engagement.

King Herod didn’t want to acknowledge the gift. Fearful of losing the power of his throne, this wicked king had all the male babies slaughtered.

Religious leaders, anxious to keep their power and prestige, didn’t receive the gift. Instead, they schemed to crucify God’s son.

Looking for a powerful earthly king, the Jews were disappointed in the humble servant leadership Jesus offered. Their unmet expectations led them to reject the gift of God’s Son.

Life can be hard. Broken relationships, financial pressures, and shattered dreams bring unbearable disappointment. Health issues, challenges in parenting, and death of loved ones can lead to discouragement and depression.

Receiving the gift Jesus came to give shifts the focus from what is lacking, to what he provides.

Peace, love, and joy despite life’s unwanted and unexpected circumstances is a gift only God can give. Knowing we would need a Savior, God was happy to give us his One and Only Son.

When I focus on disappointment and unmet expectations, like that Christmas long ago, I miss the love behind the gift. Embracing the love for myself, means I have more love to share. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

©2016 Cindy Richardson for GateWay of Hope

Cindy Richardson seeks to encourage, challenge and inspire women in their journey of hope through Bible studies, speaking and writing. Cindy weaves God’s truth and shares her faith with kindergartners at St. Joseph Christian School.

Residing in St. Joseph, Missouri with her husband, Tom, she enjoys the friendship of her three grown daughters and loves being Nana to six grandchildren.

For more inspiration, visit Cindy’s blog, Hang Onto Possible Endings.

A Time Such as This

In our summer book study, we’re looking at the book of Esther. This young Jewish girl probably had no idea that someday a book would be written about her lifetime achievements. In fact, she might be surprised that Jews throughout the centuries celebrate her courage and perseverance.

Here’s a short list of the life of Esther:
• taken from her home to enter the palace of King Xerxes
• obeyed her uncle Mordecai’s instructions
• risked her life to appear before the king
• based her courage on the foundation of prayer and fasting
• knew when to submit to authority and when to step forward in faith
• utilized her intelligence and the available resources
• recognized and called out the real enemy
• saved her people from senseless slaughter

One of the key verses in Esther is found in chapter four, verse fourteen: “…And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”

Uncle Mordecai reminded Esther – and all of us – that we have a purpose in each day. We have been designed and created to live in this particular season of human history. Each moment, we have the opportunity to do something special within our ordinary days, to say a kind word or to point someone toward hope in Christ. This truth gives our lives significance, even if we can’t see it happening.

We have no clue what type of book God is writing about us or what each chapter includes. But for such a time as this, we live here and we have a job to do.

Like Esther, let’s obey God’s instructions and go where He wants us to go. Let’s spend time in prayer and fasting so that we get the divine directions right. Let’s be discerning about the difference between submission and courage. Let’s utilize the gifts and resources God has given us. Let’s recognize the evil around us and in us and do something to eradicate it. Let’s help God in his plan to save mankind.

Let’s join Esther as we play out our own plot-lines in God’s story – for such a time as this – for right now.