I am a practical gift giver.
You won’t catch me meandering through H&M at the mall hoping the perfect present for each family member will just jump out at me from the shelves. Nope. If I love you, you’re going to get wool socks and a kindling splitter. Winter is coming and heat is expensive. You’re welcome.
Now, if you give me a list of things you actually want, I’ll buy from that list. You want a bucket of rainbow scrunchies and some Hello Kitty oven mitts? Put ‘em on your list and I will gladly purchase them because I know you’ll like them! However, if I’m not sure you’d enjoy a Harlem Globetrotters-themed snow globe, I’m not going to take the chance and get you something you have to dig out from the back of the closet every time I come over. Instead, please enjoy this thoughtfully curated Emergency Kit for your vehicle. If your car goes off the road in a remote location, wouldn’t you rather spend the night eating freeze dried Beef Stroganoff, dry and warm in a shiny space blanket? Or would you prefer to stumble through a freezing cold creek in the dark as you forage for food and get chased by bears? I thought so.
What can I say? I’m practical. And, for the record, I enjoy getting practical gifts, as well! You just can’t go wrong here, people.
Of course, kids fall into a different category. I believe most of their gifts should be just plain fun, if financially possible. Yes, they’ll get pajamas, and our girl loves pajamas. but it’s so sweet to watch kids unwrap presents we think they’ll truly enjoy.
Our kid is actually a tough one to buy for, once the pajamas are handled. She doesn’t really play with toys, which I guess stems from being an only child who wants to hang with her parents most of the time. The only things she she could think to ask for this year were a Nintendo Switch and a cozy blanket (apple, meet tree).
We were more than happy to find her a beautiful, soft blanket, but the last thing we want to do is hand her yet another electronic device that allows her to disengage from other people. She has a tablet. She has a personal computer for school. In second grade, people! So, she won’t be getting that Nintendo Switch she asked for. Not at our house, anyway. However, we recently revamped her playroom with a new (to us) couch and my old tv. We won’t put streaming services in there just yet because she’s seven and doesn’t need to be glued to the television, but she can watch a kid-friendly DVD when a friend is over if she wants to! And my parents brought down my old Super Nintendo, which we will be giving her this Christmas. I think it’s a good compromise. We can play it together and she won’t be walking around the house with her face stuck in a screen.
With all the fuss about gifts during the holiday season, my thoughts naturally drift to the OGG…the Original Gift Giver.
You may know him as God.
God himself is a rather practical gift giver. He gives us a world full of things we need for life; for survival. Air, for one thing. Sunlight. Water. Plants. Food. Fire. He knows what we need and he provides it in abundance.
And, because he’s a loving Father, he also gives us things just for pleasure: flowers, humor, creativity, animals, music, art, friendship, coffee, chocolate, baby smiles, caramel apple dump cake.
The gifts listed above are common graces given to all people, whether they acknowledge the giver or not. The sun shines on both the believer and the non-believer, does it not? We also all get the pleasure of living in a world that is cursed because of our sin. Life on earth is amazing but it’s far from perfect. Sometimes we don’t get what we want. Sometimes all we see is the fall-out from the brokenness. Sadly, one day, those that choose not to acknowledge Jesus as Lord will be eternally separated from the good gifts of God. No more gifts. No more Christmas.
But Christians, be encouraged! If we belong to him, we have so much to be thankful for, and so much to look forward to! For the Christian, every day is Christmas (even Mondays). And God is the very best gift-giver.
We have the gift of salvation through faith in God’s most extravagant gift ever: Jesus; laying down his life for sinners at the cross.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.- Romans 6:23
Even faith in Jesus is a gift from God!
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. -Ephesians 2:8-9
And then, as if setting us free from slavery to sin and death isn’t enough, God gives believers the Holy Spirit to help us live in a manner that brings us good and brings God glory:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever. -John 14:16
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” -Acts 2:37
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. -Romans 5:5
And then he gives us the infinitely precious gift of his church: other believers! This Christian life is not meant to be done alone. We need each other! What a blessing it is to share in each other’s joys and sorrows; to spur one another on to love and good works; to keep pointing each other back to Christ.
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25
And, that special gift under the tree; the one we’ve been hoping for; dying to open: the one our Father can’t wait for us to unwrap: we have been given a future far more glorious than we can even begin to imagine: an eternity of joy and delight; shoulder to shoulder with beloved friends and face to face with the God who loves us beyond comprehension. Heaven is going to be so awesome.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. -Revelation 21:1-7
And some of us will be wearing wool socks.
Ok, ok…on a serious note: What if you are not a child of God? What if you will one day reap the rewards of the curse instead of the gifts the blessing?
Change that today. Ask God’s forgiveness. Turn from your sin and be saved. And thank God for the sweet gift of his mercy.
It’s the practical thing to do.
Merry Christmas, friends.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! – 1 John 3:1