A Gift That Matters
By DANNY MINTON
December 26th represents one of the busiest shopping days of the year. People crowd the stores for sales and special deals. However, one thing different on that day shows a different view than sales before Christmas. If you look carefully, you’ll see scores of people toting packages into the store as well as out of the store. The day represents “Return Day.”
Return with me to the night of December 24th or the morning of the 25th. Families gather around the tree, excited to discover what lies within the brightly colored gifts. The anticipation of things desired glows around the room. In most cases, the gifts receive shrieks of joy and hugs for what the packages revealed. However, others bring disappointment. Sometimes the disappointment reveals itself outwardly, while at other times, it receives a simple thank you or maybe a terse remark.
Over the years, we have given gifts that we thought were nice, only to be received with a face of disappointment and a negative comment. The negative comments receive a “you can return it if you don’t like it” response in many incidences. Embarrassment usually follows, and the spirit of the time fades a little.
So, returning to December 26th, we see the packages hauled into the stores and the return line growing longer by the minute. While some find their way because of the wrong size or missing or broken parts, most gifts land in the unwanted pile rejected by the receiver. The meaning of the old phrase, “It’s not the gift that counts, but the thought that matters,” finds itself lost in hearts more concerned with wants than appreciation.
I can’t remember ever returning a gift unless it didn’t work or fit. Every so often, I’ll open a cabinet or be rustling through a hidden space and find a gift I couldn’t use but still held onto simply because it was a gift. I hold onto the thought that the giver gave it with the belief that I’d like it, so in return, I received it as something from the heart of the giver. I always remember another old thought, “It’s not the size of the gift that matters, but the size of the heart that gives it.”
However, I hold onto one gift that matters as much as the one who gave it. There will never be a gift given that matches it. There will never be a heart more prominent than the one of the giver. The gift does not belong to me alone, but to everyone, past, present, and future. You have that gift as well, the gift of the Son of God to every man, woman, and child. A present, wrapped in rags and placed in a trough, lay quietly for every one of us. The giver possessed no more generous gift than the one He presented that night over two thousand years ago.
Of all the gifts we will receive in our lifetime, this one gift matters as much as the heart of the one who gives it to us. We can’t return it, and neither should we try and place it in the cabinet or lock it away in a closet. This gift should dwell in the hearts of us all every day of every year.
The exact day that Jesus was born will always remain unknown. December 25th has become the day chosen years ago to remind us of his birth. But his birth merely represented the beginning of the gift to us all. The true meaning of the gift would not be realized for years after his birth. It would be on a Passover years later that the value of the gift given in a manger and the love of the heart that gave it would be fully realized.
The meaning of this gift from God resides in a simple scripture in the Gospel According to John. John explains not only the gift but the giver and why he gave it as well. During this time of the year, take a moment in the busy season and remember the gift that matters. If you read closely, you will find that the gift that matters resulted in one last gift.
“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
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ.