It’s Christmas time. And as Scroogie as it is to talk about this, most of what my thoughts gravitate toward is… money. I wish it weren’t true. I am constantly planning how I can get awesome, appropriate, and unique gifts at the best prices. A fourth generation bargain Betty, I can’t resist a thrift store and can lose myself for hours in the behemoth Salvation Army nearby. I liken it to hunting. You have to get there early for the best pickings. You must be patient and meticulous, diligent, and only rarely do you come away with a prize (like this sweater I’m wearing). Mostly it’s just waiting for something magical that never actually materializes. And just like hunting, it can be a messy or dangerous endeavor. I once had a large black spider fall out of a pair of jeans I was trying on. Now I shake them before slipping my leg into those dark places, and I pray I don’t get lice, scabies, or any other icky bonus as a direct result of trying on clothes. Although I enjoy picking through junk, it’s not exactly the place to get awesome and appropriate, (although you can get unique) presents. So once a year I’m forced to pay full price. Am I throwing up while keying in my credit card numbers? You bet.
My grandmother gave us kids used gifts every year. “Thou shalt not buy anything new,” was her mantra. Her gifts were always unique, sometimes appropriate, and once in a blue moon, awesome. Is it because they didn’t cost her much that I didn’t feel the love? Sometimes gifts have a time price tag, crafts whose extravagance is the many hours spent fashioning them. The afghan my grandmother gave me was absolutely delightful for the thirty deluded seconds I thought she had crocheted it. The problem was that I pictured my Grammy squirreling away gifts and then indiscriminately passing them out as the need arose. I wanted a premeditated gift, one pondered upon and deemed perfect for me, not just perfect for any kid; I wanted it to cost her.
Am I mean?
Don’t answer that. It’s a rhetorical question.
Don’t misunderstand me. I love my Grammy and her gifts, although opening them felt somewhat like playing the lottery. I think I wanted it to cost her because love is proportional to sacrifice. Or maybe it would be better to say love equals sacrifice. They are the same thing when they are true. Take love as described in the Bible: “Perfect love has no fear.” How is that possible? All human relationships are subject to betrayal and thus a possible source of fear. Add to that the fact that people are messy and used, and sometimes full of spiders, and the odds are significantly against not feeling pain in love at one time or another. Still, we are loved by God. His love doesn’t depend on our worth or our response to Him. That’s why it’s perfect… and fearless. If I love like He loves, my love doesn’t depend upon the object; no reciprocity necessary. That is incredibly freeing (and incidentally, incredibly useful when raising teens).
God loves us by giving the gift of Jesus to anyone who will accept him. I can say it’s a lovely gift under the tree, but it doesn’t become mine until I act. Act in faith this season if you haven’t already.