December 12, 2003

Encouragement for Today

 

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Ginger Plowman

 

Key Verse:

 

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23

 

Devotion:

 

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season finds us all seeking the answer to the same question, "What gifts will I buy for my loved ones this Christmas?" We rack our brains for just the right items. Like crazed bloodhounds we bound from store to store eager to pounce on the perfect presents, ones that will please the receiver without depleting the pocket of the purchaser. Searching for the ideal gifts can be frustrating. If we’re not careful, the hot pursuit of gift buying can hinder us from celebrating and enjoying the reason for the season.

 

Determined to find a better way to spend my time, last December I came up with the perfect solution to end my shopping frenzy. Shrink-wrap. Allow me to explain how it works. You simply wrap the clear paper around an item, apply warm air from a hairdryer, and wait as the paper "shrinks" to wrap tightly and flawlessly around the item. With just a flick of the switch on my hairdryer, I could make used items appear new while cleaning out my closets and attic at the same time. "Ginger," I said to myself, "you have just revolutionized your holiday season!"

 

With newly found purpose and determination, I purchased a four dollar ninety-nine cents roll of shrink-wrap and climbed up the attic stairs. Oh, the treasures I found! I gleefully ran from box to box as I talked out loud to myself, "The comedy video of Dennis Swanburge would be perfect for Aunt Emily! Terri Blackstock’s suspense book would be just right for my mother-in-law, and my brother would absolutely love the multi-sized wrench set!" If my arms weren’t so short, I would have patted myself on the back. It was a brilliant plan…or so I thought.

 

The glitz and glitter of Christmas Day was in full swing. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care; the fragrances of warm cider, cinnamon, and pine permeated the air; and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas played softly in the background. Laughter echoed throughout the living room, and hugs were exchanged as we opened our gifts. A twinge of guilt tugged at my heart as I thought, "Should I feel bad for passing off used items as new? Naaaaa, what better gifts than ones I have personally tested and approved?" I convinced myself that I had chosen the perfect gifts.

           

I had almost pulled it off, when suddenly my mother-in law opened the cover of her suspense book. "Hey!" she called out, "This book is signed to Ginger, from Dad!" The music stopped, and the room grew uncomfortably quiet. A ball fell off the tree. So much for my brilliant plan.

 

While we may find the right size, the right color, and the right price, there is only one perfect gift. It won’t wind up in the attic or at a yard sale, and it lasts forever. It’s the only gift that it is ancient, yet new every day. The gift of salvation was purchased especially for you by Jesus Christ. He paid for it with his own life. All you have to do to receive it is admit that you are a sinner, ask Jesus to forgive you, and surrender your life to Him.

 

The world offers many gifts that bring temporary satisfaction. Temptations come in neatly wrapped packages with shiny ribbons and enticing bows, but once you unwrap the thin layer of cheap frills, you’ll find nothing more than an empty box…and an empty heart. If you would like to receive the gift that truly keeps on giving, unwrap the presence of Christ this holiday season.

             

My Prayer for Today:

 

Lord, help me to put aside my own agenda for this month. Open my eyes and my heart to see and feel your presence each day. May the song of my voice and the meditation of my heart be a sweet aroma of praise and worship to you. Amen.

                       

Application steps:

 

Make a list of everything you have to do this month. Cross off anything that can be eliminated. Plan several nights at home with your family. Ideas include: reading and discussing the story of the birth of Christ, listening to Christmas music as you play games, sipping cider as you bake holiday treats and addressing Christmas cards for friends and family together.

 

Reflection points:

 

What does Christmas mean to me?

 

Am I more concerned with buying presents and making preparations than celebrating the birth of Jesus?

 

Are my children witnessing the real "reason for the season" in my words and actions?

 

What temporal tasks are hindering me from enjoying the gift of Christ?

 

How can I lead my children in focusing on Christ this Christmas?

 

Power verses:

 

James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows. (NIV)

 

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (NIV)

 

1 Corinthians 12:31 But eagerly desire the greater gifts. (NIV)

 

Matthew 16:26a What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? (NIV)

 

Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (NIV)

 

Additional resources:

 

Celebrating a Christ Centered Christmas  by Sharon Jaynes

http://www.gospelcom.net/p31/resources/celebrating.html

 

The Sweetest Story Ever Told by Lysa Terkeurst

http://www.gospelcom.net/p31/resources/sweetest.html

 

My Very First Christmas Book by Michal Sparks

http://www.gospelcom.net/p31/resources/firstchristmas.html

 

Wooden Nativity Set       available through Proverbs 31 Ministries

http://www.gospelcom.net/p31/resources/nativity.html