We are in the Christmas zone! Thanksgiving has passed, though many of you already have your Christmas tree and home decorated, including me. Following the Created For This Conference, we moved out of our house after twenty-seven years and downsized to a condo. My Christmas decorations were right in front of me, so rather than placing them in the basement (our condo has a basement!!), I decided a little holiday decorating was in order.
This time of year always reminds me of the importance of being present in other’s lives and not just giving presents. The scripture in I Samuel 15:22 says this, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” When I read this scripture, I am always convicted. I am a doer, and maybe you are too. When you are a doer, it is sometimes easier to do or give something than to slow down and be present in the moment.
When I was dating my now husband Steve, and in college, January rolled around, and I was so excited to celebrate this special day together, my birthday! I grew up in a family where birthdays were not very special, and being a twin, they were always shared. This birthday was different, or so I thought. Steve told me he was going shopping for that perfect gift for me, which made me all the more excited. We had been dating for six months and already had the conversation about our future life together, so I was positive a “promise ring” was going to be my gift. “Shop away, my love, and I will be waiting for you to return with my expected gift!”
That winter day, I waited, and waited, and waited some more. The afternoon was now over, no boyfriend in sight. I went to the cafeteria and ate alone that birthday, trying not to be too disappointed. These were the days before cell phones, so I had no idea where he was or when he was returning.
That evening our campus had special services, so off I went, by myself. During the worship portion of the service, Steve arrived and excitedly took the seat next to me. I truly was excited to see him, and I noticed he had my gift with him. Beautifully wrapped, a small box appeared, which surely was my promise ring. However, we were now in the service, so I waited again. About 9 pm we left the campus and drove to a bank parking lot, where Steve was excited to give me my present, which was NOT a promise ring. In the box was a small opal necklace. I was disappointed for sure, but then as I heard the story of the events of the day, I learned a life lesson that I have never forgotten and either has he.
Steve went shopping that morning with his best friend, his girlfriend, and my twin sister. He wanted them along to help him find the “perfect” gift for me, which they believed was the opal necklace. They should have thought “ring,” but that’s another article! My driving thought was, “where were you all day? I just spent my birthday alone.” The explanation was, “We looked all day to find you this perfect gift, and it got late, so we ate dinner together before we came back to campus.” All I kept thinking was I spent the day alone, while you celebrated my birthday with my twin sister, whose birthday it also was. How crazy was that! How ironic that the present became the focus rather than his presence with me. I would have gladly exchanged the gift for time. I knew at that moment, gifts are good, but without the presence of the one you love, they are meaningless. Trust me, Steve has never made that mistake again, and I have had many special birthdays over the years. He has been a gift to my life.
Here is the takeaway from this:
First, this Christmas season, be present in your family’s lives. Put down your phone and connect on a deeper level. More than ever, we need families to experience true Christianity demonstrated in our homes. We choose how we want our families to live, and the Bible says we will enjoy the fruit of our labor. I can guarantee you the presents you give your family will mostly be forgotten, but your presence in their lives will be remembered with gratefulness.
Psalm 128: 1-4 says, “How joyful are those who fear the Lord—all who follow his ways!
You will enjoy the fruit of your labor. How joyful and prosperous you will be! Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home. Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table. That is the Lord’s blessing for those who fear him.” (NLT )
Second, make sure your relationship with Jesus is more important than what you do for Him or the “gifts” you give Him. We are first and foremost, sons and daughters of the King, and then we are His servants. Everything that you and I do for Jesus does not change our status before Him. He could not love us more or less based on our works. He loves us.
How do we know this? Well, God loved us and wanted a relationship with us enough to send His Son to die for us, so this relationship became possible. In the Old Testament sacrifices (gifts) were presented on the altar to secure a right relationship with God, but it didn’t work. Why? Anything based on our goodness will fail every time because we fail. Jesus became the final gift (sacrifice), so we could be assured a relationship based on love.
I John 4:9-10″ This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” NLT
What gift is Jesus looking for this Christmas? You! Take some time this Christmas to sit at His feet. Put on some music, close your eyes, and “be with Jesus.” Hear Him speak to you and tell you how He feels about you. In doing this, you will be refreshed and experience the best Christmas of your life!
I am celebrating with you!