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The Gift Shift

The Gift Shift

The credit card bill from December 2023 has certified that my Christmas gifting this year was excessive. Some of the gifts I gave my family didn’t turn a head and now, sadly, seem hardly worth the wrapping paper and ribbon I used to present them. Buyer’s remorse has clouded over the light in the initial joy I had giving them. Gift giving among my beloved family members begs to be redefined with thoughtfulness on my part. The wind was not behind my sails this year, nor beneath my wings in the annual gathering of my dear ones.

However, the setting in Orange Mound was a refreshing and antithetical experience.  The apparent contrast between giving to family and giving to the poor at Christmas this year is worth noting. I haven’t counted, but I have read there are over 2000 verses about helping the poor in the Bible. As well, there are cautions in Proverbs as to squandering our wealth.

Notwithstanding God’s command to give to the poor, I have often considered why He says to do it countless times.  Beyond the obvious - ‘because they have needs, Silly, and you have resources’ - I have determined the blessing is for me, the gift giver, not just the recipient who is poor. 

The ladies who work with us in Orange Mound more than enthusiastically received Christmas gifts at our Christmas Party two weeks ago.  Much of the rapturous excitement in the room was photographed and videoed and played several hundred times among us over the holiday break with joy and gratitude. Our celebration was uproarious. Specialized, personalized, and memorable gifts from volunteers were given to eleven ladies at the tea company. A favorite couple spent an earlier day with us and shared comforting poetry about the passing of loved ones. One baked a banana nut bread loaf for each. Another made bead bracelets with a personalized charm.   Another gave personalized scripture cards to each with her own name attached to the Lord’s promise.  One of the ladies embroidered tea towels for all her co-workers. Another gave each the devotional, Jesus Calling. Never have we had such bounty and benevolence, tears, and laughter.  It made my Christmas and theirs, and I am still in the afterglow because they are still talking about the gifts and reporting their use of them.

Throughout the year, generous supporters and customers have graced us in favor, monetary donations, and various types of contributions and many have come to see the gratitude we have in receiving them. However, I believe this Christmas was exceptional since the times have been especially challenging in the neighborhood and among the ladies. None of them expected to be “seen, soothed, safe, or secure” borrowing psychologist Curt Thompson’s short list of mental health imperatives in his new book, The Deepest Place.  Much less did they anticipate a raft of presents at our ‘potluck lunch’. Each had drawn a name and brought one gift to that co-worker. That had long been our tradition and more than fun and rewarding in the past.

Who knew that giving personal and thoughtful, though small, gifts to these courageous ladies would make OUR Christmas and theirs!

There is no comparison to the greatest gift of all time in God’s incarnation and ultimately Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. Hebrews says, that for the joy set before Him, He came humbly and lived among us. He gave Himself to us and His life away for us. His gift keeps giving through the gift of Himself in the indwelling Holy Spirit who guides, comforts, strengthens and reminds us of our identity, our future, and our key to the throne room of God.  We are seen, safe, secure, and soothed forever.

Ironically, the infinitesimal comparative gifts we offered on December 20th to our lovely friends has brought us immeasurable joy, though temporal. With that comes the desire to do it again, in new creative ways.  God has told us in His Word to give to the poor, and our recently discovered conclusion is He has said that to increase our joy and understanding of Jesus’s love in giving to us. For it is we who are the unmitigatedly poor in every way until we receive His personalized and specialized gift of Himself - The Priceless Gift .