Christmas is a wonderful time of year, isn’t it? All those gifts sat wrapped under the tree awaiting distribution to the receiver; the eager anticipation of what gifts we will get in return. Hmmmmmm, or maybe it’s a stress trying to get all those gifts bought and trying to make the budget stretch to cover the cost. Maybe you are lost in a sea of wrapping paper and gift tags willing the whole thing to be over. Since having my daughter, I have been forced to take a step back and really evaluate my life, the things I do and why I do them. Christmas has probably seen the biggest revolution so far for us. But gift giving, this is an area where I’ve felt most challenged and an area that’s caused me to face up to the selfish person I like to pretend doesn’t cohabit this body. I’ve always given gifts, but the thing is, I have always given gifts to those who are going to be giving to me in return. Selfish or what?! Or there’s that other gift giving sin I am guilty of, buying a gift in a price range that I think the other person will also pick mine from. What is the point?! We both may as well just keep our money in our bank accounts and spend it on ourselves. I am not writing this to say gift giving is bad, far from it!! But, as we set our hearts and minds towards advent, and we started thinking about what we really wanted to teach our daughter from this blessed time of year, we built in something we have never done before………….giving a gift to someone who isn’t going to give us one in return. Gasp!!! It’s never happened before, but it’s going to be one of our advent traditions. It’s not a big thing we’re giving. In fact, we’ve started of pretty small; the gift is homemade cookies, but the point is not the gift itself, it is in the selfless giving. We are giving these treats to our neighbours, who we barely know. I have made the cookies with no expectations in return, just for the sheer joy of giving something freely and out of love. Where does this stem from? Well, from both of us looking back at our childhood and seeing how selfish we were. Christmas is about Jesus’ birthday and yet, we thought the day was all about us and those heaps of presents coming our way. But we want to teach our daughter, that, yes, it is GREAT to receive, but it is BETTER to give, and in giving to those who are not obliged in any way to return the favour we are sharing a little bit of Jesus with them and also giving a gift to Him as well. It’s his birthday, afterall, and after coming to earth and giving us the ultimate gift salvation and life eternal asking nothing in return, a plateful of cookies to strangers sharing the same street really is the least we can do. What about you? Do you give to people just for the sake of giving and not expecting in return? Is this something your family has been doing for a while, maybe? Let me know, and share your inspiration for great gifts to touch hearts at Christmas and throughout the year. I can’t wait to distribute my gifts this evening when people get home; my gift in return will be the smile on their face. That alone is gift enough.
It’s been a few days now since the Sandy Hook shooting rocked a village, a state, a country, the world, but it’s still as heart wrenching as it was the day it happened. How anyone could take even one person’s life let alone 26 and among them innocent, bright eyed, hopeful children is just too much for me to comprehend. My heart is saddened for the parents who have lost their beautiful children. I look at my daughter, and I cannot fathom never seeing that gorgeous face again, never being able to hold her close, see her smile, hear her delight at everything around her. It breaks my heart. I read this by Ann Voskamp yesterday and wanted to share it with you as she puts it all far better than I ever could. This Christmas, in the midst of all our fun and laughter, gift giving, and food eating, let us take a moment to stop and bow our heads and pray for all those grieving hearts around the world who have lost loved ones, let us remember the lives lost every day to the heinous crime of murder in all its forms, let us offer up thanks for all that we have and for all those sat around our table, and let us not forget that our hope is in Christ alone.
It’s that time of year when we turn our hearts and minds to preparing for and celebrating the most wondrous birth story and love story ever. All around the lights and decorations are going up, Christmas trees are gleaming away through people’s house windows. Everyone seems to be filled with a little more joy and a little more love while Christmas music fills the air. I love Christmas music, and I try and add to my collection of it on a regular basis. Today, while reading this over at Keeper of The Home, I discovered the album Behold The Lamb. A song that has just struck me to my core on there is Labor of Love. So often we paint nice, cosy images in our heads of the Saviour’s birth. Christmas cards depict warm, clean stables, Mary and Joseph pristine and glowing, no signs of tiredness or sweat upon them. This song really brought home to me, especially now as a mother, just what Mary went through. Imagine more the terrified young girl birthing her first child in the dead of night without the help of experienced women, and a frightened young man by her side supporting her through it all. Imagine instead the grimy stable, the filth, the manure, the stench of animals, air probably filled with the eye watering vapour of ammonia. Imagine the lack of washing facilities to allow Mary to freshen up after the birth. There were no midwives or caring female relatives here to take and clean the baby and make sure Mary had a fresh bed with plump pillows and warm covers to lay down in afterwards and a nice shower or bath to soak in. There were no high tech emergency services just a phonecall away just incase there was a “worst case scenario”. Wow, I am in awe of Mary laboring away on a floor of dirty straw, as she puts all her might, heart and soul into bringing God’s own son into this world. Jesus could have been born in a palace to royalty, but instead he chose to be born in a filthy, dark, stable surrounded by animals and chose a young, insignificant woman as his earthly mother; a woman who may not have had much by way of earthly riches, but she had a strength of character and a faith far richer and more beautiful than all the riches money could buy. From the outset, He chose to identify with the least of us and the worst of us through his birth story. What amazing love! This year, when I celebrate Jesus’ birth and why He was sent down, I will choose to paint a more accurate image in my mind of the cicrumstances surrounding his birth, and not a prettied up one. I will choose to fully appreciate the wonderful gift of love which was placed in that grimy feedbox on that night. May His grace and love touch your heart and soul during this advent season.