Our Most Memorable Christmas Gift
- Dennis Rainey Executive Director of FamilyLife Ministries
- 2002 14 Oct
"Present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God." Romans 12:1
Barbara and I recently were asked, "What is the most memorable Christmas gift you've ever given or received?" Instantly our minds raced backwards over invisible tracks and skidded to a stop at the same intersection: Our first Christmas together as a couple, in 1972.
Our Christmas tree that year was sparsely decorated with a dozen red ornaments. The small living room was quiet, but warm. A scant few presents lay scattered under the scotch pine.
Neither of us have any recollection of what prompted us, but evidently the Spirit of God wanted us to dedicate and commemorate our new life together in Jesus Christ. So we decided that before we would give each other our gifts, we would first give God the most valued gift we possessed: our lives.
The kitchen table became Barbara's altar, while I sat on the borrowed couch. Each of us, individually, spent some time writing out the "Title Deeds to Our Lives."
It was a time of counting the cost of being a committed follower of Jesus Christ. It meant relinquishing all rights and ownership of our lives to God. It was a practical application of Romans 12:1,2, which urges us to commit our lives totally to the Lord.
It wasn't easy, that bare-bones honesty with God. We wrote down all that we desired, all the things we thought were important, and said we wanted to give them to Him. Then, folding and placing those two sheets of paper in an envelope, we wrote on the outside: To God Our Father. We sealed the envelope, and then we verbalized together in prayer what had already taken place privately on our sheets of paper.
There were no bells. No angelic choirs singing. No blinding light. Just the firm confidence that what we had done was right.
Eighteen years later we retrieved those documents from our safety deposit box and read them. And in the next devotion I'll show you what we found.
It was fascinating to read, 18 years later, the earnest commitment we had made as a young couple: At the top of our pages was a similar statement:
Contract with God
I hereby give all rights to God of the following things that I want:
Then came our lists (partial):
- Nice big house with workshop, office
- To ski well
- Nice furniture and things
- Sharp clothes
- Easygoing job
- Success in ministry and speaking ability
- Stay healthy
- A healthy, big family-several boys
- Children-at least one boy and one girl
- To live to see my children grow up
- To be settled and stable
- To be an outstanding couple and family
Reading the lists on those two pages, Barbara and I were immediately stunned by two things. First, we noticed how silly and shallow some of the things were that we deemed valuable and difficult to give up to God. I was struck by how much I was preoccupied with material things. Looking back over our years together, I found it fascinating how God had continuously sought to wean us from that which is perishable and replace our values with the imperishable: People and His Word.
We also were surprised at how much more God has given us than what we gave up. We immediately thought of Ephesians 3:20. Both of us feel we sacrificed nothing and have gained far more than we ever dreamed of.
Excerpted from Moments Together for Couples by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Used with permission. Copyright 1995 by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. All rights reserved.
About the author: Dennis Rainey is the executive director of FamilyLife, an organization founded in 1976 with the goal of effectively developing godly families, one home at a time. Parents of six children, Dennis and his wife, Barbara, have written numerous books, including best-sellers Moments Together for Couples and The Questions Book for Marriage Intimacy.