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God is a great gift giver; are you?

By AL EARLEY

Religion Columnist

Gift giving is the universal expression of love that transcends all cultural boundaries.

Go anywhere in the world and gift giving is a sign of thanks, friendship, and love. Children often love giving gifts. Have you ever noticed how a child will run into a field of flowers and pick some for someone else? With great joy they pass the gift on to the closest person they can give them to.

Have you ever wondered why gift giving is so important to people? It is because whether the gift is something you hold in your hand, something you’ve done for another, or a compliment for someone, the gift itself communicates, “I spent time thinking about you, and chose to do something special for you.”

So why are so many people so uncomfortable receiving gifts, even at Christmas? Perhaps we don’t think we are worthy to receive gifts. We may be struggling with self esteem issues. We may struggle with receiving a gift from someone we didn’t get a gift for. But that turns gift giving into a game, or a competition. Often, we’ll be rewarded for a job by people with a gift, but we don’t think we deserve it, or don’t want the attention.

It is very important to receive such gifts with joy and thanks. I used to struggle with this last reason for receiving gifts, until I simply changed my attitude. I realized how much joy it would bring others to give me an unexpected gift, and their joy was even greater when I shared my joy. Simply deciding to enjoy receiving gifts from others can solve a lot of our struggles with gifts.

Perhaps we can become better gift receivers by thinking about God, who gives the greatest gifts of all. I love this story about a cleaning lady who loved to go to the movies. But when she went, she would always complain about how ugly she was compared to all the beautiful women in the movies. She would complain about how horrible her voice was. She was right. But God gave her a gift to make people laugh. Her name was Phyllis Diller, and with her strange looks and raspy voice she made lots of people laugh.

Let’s look at the gifts God gave to Mary and Joseph, Jesus’ earthly parents. Joseph probably took Mary to Bethlehem with him because she would be in danger back in Nazareth as a pregnant unwed woman. They surely could not afford to make the long journey, much less start a new home. Once they get to Bethlehem, they can’t even find a place to stay. God provides for them in a big way, sending kings with gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:1-12). The gold would take care of all their debts in Bethlehem and leave plenty for future expenses.

When they flee to Egypt to save Jesus’ life, they will find that frankincense and myrrh are very expensive oils that will be worth a lot of money. If these kings offered a small chest of gold and a modest amount of the oils, it could easily be worth 1.5 million dollars in today’s money. It is possible that the worth of these gifts took care of Mary, Joseph, and their family for years to come.

This wonderful example of God as a great gift giver is nothing compared to the greatest gift you and I have ever received, the gift of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. But we struggle with even this gift because we did nothing to deserve or earn the gift of Jesus Christ. What do we usually do with gifts we don’t’ deserve or earn? We usually undervalue them. Let us remember what is written in I John 4:19, “We love because  he first loved us.” It is because of  his love for us that we can better understand and share love and gifts with one another.

Are you a very good gift giver/receiver? Do you give thanks to God daily for all the precious gifts  he has given you? What gift can you give back to God to say, “Thanks”?

To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles, visit www.lagrangepres.com.