Underneath my Christmas tree is a pile of wrapped gifts orphaned and left unopened.
This could make sense, being as it’s only December 3rd. I could be someone who wraps gifts to spread under the tree waiting for the magic of December 25th. Alas, I am not. All of my gifts are dutifully adorned and stored in my attic to maximize the surprise come Christmas morning.
I love to give gifts.
I indulge in finding an ideal present. As my funds are limited, I scour sales all year to unearth that special something for someone. I adore seeing the light sparkle in their eyes as they tear off the beautiful wrapping and discover the prize within. Appreciating the thought in even the most inexpensive of offerings. The realization I’ve taken time to value and understand them is what my friends appreciate. That old cliché it’s the thought that counts still resonates for a reason. The realization someone cares about you enough to know what makes you smile is often the intersection of enchantment + delight.
Gifts are wrapped in many sized packages; draped in a myriad of shiny paper. A gift can be material. It can be an event. The generosity of our time is an exquisite gift however it’s adorned.
Life’s most momentous offerings the generosity of time well spent or of an emotional variety, such as, the selfless act of forgiveness. Our most treasured gifts these emotional rewards that intensify in value long after the offering is exchanged.
Saturday I hosted an event that I’ve planned for several months for women leaders from my church. There were roughly 30 women invited to my home. One of my colleagues donated a Christian book of prayer which I wrapped as a gift for each guest. Shortly after my guests arrived, I invited them into my living area and asked them to select a present from under the tree. Their happiness somewhat short lived when I instructed them to come and sit without opening their red and white polka dot packages. One of the ladies said something in jest as she sat down like, “Joy – who went from best hostess ever to really bad hostess in like 30 seconds.”
And we all laughed.
Because it’s silly.
It’s bizarre to give someone a gift then tell them they can’t open it. It’s equally dippy to leave gifts intended for you sitting under a tree orphaned with a label bearing your name.
Even babies love the act of receiving and opening gifts. Surprisingly, many of us have found, tearing brightly colored wrapping and bows off big boxes is more fun for babies that first Christmas than the actual present inside.
Some of us like to open gifts publicly. Some of us would rather open the gift alone in the privacy of our own space. Whatever our preference we love to receive and open gifts. Why? Because it’s fun.
Whether we rip aside the paper in eager anticipation or carefully savor each second as we gingerly separate the trappings, we all have one thing in common. We open the present.
Or do we?
I read the verse below to my friends this Saturday as we sat with our unopened gifts in our laps.
James 1:16-18 (The Message)
“So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all His creatures.”
As the wrapped, unopened gifts sat under the tree intended for those who never arrived it was easy to deflect. Yet, His word pierces like that sharp double edge sword it is. Each of us guilty. We talked about those gifts left unrecognized, unopened or under-valued in each of our lives. The sting sharper as we realized the offerings we frequently don’t appreciate in each other just because the person is wrapped differently than ideal according to the critic in each of us.
Last night I went to church with the gifts left under the tree and chased around some of the ladies they were intended for. I want each to have theirs. As I scurried after one woman down the aisle before our service, I was humbled again. I recognized this mirror image of how God has to chase me.
To hand me His gifts.
Gifts I too frequently don’t recognize.
I prayed then to be more grateful. I prayed, right there in the center aisle, to stop running along busy with my life and to recognize and appreciate the many gifts I receive. Not just during this holiday season.
I prayed to be better at receiving and humbly giving gifts.
And, like what happens when we’re listening, right then, I was given something. I remembered sometimes the greatest gifts we receive are ones we give ourselves.