“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
(1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV)
Friend to Friend
An African boy listened carefully as his teacher explained why Christians give presents to each other on Christmas day. “The gift is an expression of our joy over the birth of Jesus and our friendship for each other,” she said.
When Christmas day came, the boy brought the teacher a seashell of lustrous beauty. “Where did you ever find such a beautiful shell?” the teacher asked as she gently fingered the gift.
The youth told her that there was only one spot on the island where such extraordinary shells could be found. When he named the place, a certain bay several miles away, the teacher was left speechless.
“Why…why, it’s gorgeous…wonderful, but you shouldn’t have gone all that way to get a gift for me.”
His eyes brightening, the boy answered, “Long walk part of gift.”
I just love that story. During this holiday season, I watch as people scurry about swiping those plastic cards through the credit card machines faster than a speeding bullet. And yet, God has already shown us that the most precious gifts cannot be bought or sold. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).
The magi also knew about the joy of giving. While they gave gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ child, they also gave another gift…a long walk. We don’t know how far the magi traveled, but we do know that it was a distance that took months, perhaps years. Their long walk was part of the gift.
I wonder how far we are willing to go to worship Jesus…to bring our gifts to him. I wonder how far out of the way we will go to praise him. Do we only give to Him when it is convenient or easy? Or do we give what He wants most—our very lives.
I think the little African boy had the right idea. The real gift wasn’t the shell; it was the sacrifice he had to make to give it.
Let me share with you a poem I wrote several years ago to help keep Christmas in proper perspective.
1 Corinthians 13 Christmas Style
©By Sharon Jaynes
If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny glass balls, but do not show love to my family – I’m just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family – I’m just another cook.
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family – It profits me nothing.
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn’t envy another home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of your way.
Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
Love never fails. Video games will break; pearl necklaces will be lost; golf clubs will rust. But giving the gift of love will endure.
Dear God, thank you for the gift you gave us through your Son, Jesus Christ. pray that I will keep gift giving in perspective this holiday season and give gifts from the heart rather than the pocketbook. Help me to see that the gift of love is the greatest gift of all.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now it’s your turn
Describe a time when someone’s sacrificial gift meant a lot to you?
Describe the feeling you had when you gave a portion of yourself, such as your time, to someone?
Try to imagine the teacher who received the shell. What thoughts do you think came to mind when she looked at it year after year? Do you think it was the shell itself, or the heart of the boy who gave it to her?
Now, imagine how God looks at our gifts we give to Him? Do you think He reflects on the gifts themselves or the heart of the child who gives it?
More from the Girlfriends:
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