There are many angles to the biblical Christmas story and clergy men and women can direct the story in different ways. The one I am most partial to is the story of the Wise Men and their visit to Jesus. And the reason it's so special to me is because they brought gifts. Heck, maybe they started the annual practice of gift-giving. And I love it! Both giving and receiving them. Do you know that if it had been three wise women instead of wise men, things would have been different? Yep! Wise women would have asked for directions instead of depending on a star. And because of that, they would have arrived on time, cleaned the stable, shoo'ed the animals out and helped deliver the baby. And instead of gold, frankincense and myrrh, they would have brought blankets, several casseroles and disposable diapers.
But be that as it may, the Wise Men did indeed bring gifts. So on this final column before Christmas, let me share three different kinds of gifts:
First there is the "Gift for a Gift" gift. We all know about these gifts, especially at Christmas. Someone gets you a gift and you feel obligated to give them a gift. Pretty much the same Christmas cards. But not only that, when you receive an unexpected gift, you have to figure out roughly how much it cost, the effort put in it and the thought behind it, so you can reciprocate appropriately.
Secondly, there is the "Gift for a Favor" gift. These are those gifts given with the idea that sometime down the road, that person will ask you for a favor. Can anyone say "The Godfather." Can you hear Marlon Brando saying, "Someday I may just ask you for a favor." Father-in-laws do this a lot with their sons-in-laws. Not that I do!!!!!
But it's the third gift that's really special. When the Wise Men came, they brought the gift personally. They went to a lot of trouble. They gave it out of love. They did it to honor someone they cared about. The third kind of gift is what I call, "THE GRACE GIFT." Grace gifts usually aren't gifts that can be purchased. They aren't necessarily gifts that one unwraps. Grace gifts are those simple gifts that leave a mark on one's life. They are gifts that become indescribable, unrepayable and sometimes even impossible. They can include but not limited to a phone call, a personal visit, a heartfelt letter, an invitation to supper, a hug, a word of hope, a prayer and so on. Grace gifts often are gifts of time. They are personal. They take some effort. They say, "I love you" and "I care about you."
The greatest grace gift ever given is Christmas. No, not the mad rush of buying gifts, sending cards or getting the menu ready the special day. Christmas, no matter how you slice it, is about a birth. A birth of a certain little boy. A boy who will bring hope, joy, peace and love to anyone who reaches out to him. The greatest grace gift in the world is the gift he ultimately gave to you and me---THE GIFT OF HIMSELF.
So from my family to yours, my home to yours and from me to you..........."HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS. MAY YOUR DAYS BE BRIGHT..." And remember this Christmas and throughout all of 2012--------look for ways to give the gift of grace. And as Tiny Tim says.....God bless us, everyone.
That's how I see it. Let me know your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 319-334-4117.