• 61°

The greatest gift you have ever been given

By AL EARLEY

Religion Columnist

The 2018 PNC Christmas Price Index, which measures the cost of purchasing all the gifts mentioned in the “12 Days of Christmas” song, says that the holiday extravaganza would cost $39,094.93 this year, an increase of just 2.5 percent from last year. Wage growth across the economy made pipers and drummers more expensive. Though it has been a wild year for gold, the price of gold rings actually went down.

It got me to thinking about the greatest gifts we have received. What is the greatest gift you have ever been given?

Did you think first of your favorite Christmas, when you got a gift you never expected because it was more expensive than you thought possible? When I was 10, my parents got me a 10-speed bicycle. It was used, but it was beautiful. I don’t ride it anymore, but I still have it. It was the only gift I got that Christmas, but it was all I wanted.

Maybe you got a puppy or a kitty for Christmas when your parents had said “No” for the millionth time. You will never forget that Christmas because that puppy or kitty gave you such joy through the years.

Maybe the greatest gift you have ever been given was not received at Christmas. When we think back there are few if any Christmas gifts we actually remember receiving. Were your parents able to give you a college education? That is a wonderful gift, and the wisdom is something no one can take from you. Did you grow up in a safe, warm, and loving home with parents who love each other? That is a great gift to be sure, especially given today’s high divorce rate. Do you have a best friend that has been there for you for decades? The gift of friendship is a precious one indeed, especially if your best friend is your spouse.

If you have ever survived cancer, a car accident, or some other life-threatening experience then your first response to the question is that life is the greatest gift you have ever been given. It often takes losing or almost losing your life or that of a loved one to help us fully appreciate the precious gift of life. When we face death, we often learn the most about living.

When we take time to consider some of the many gifts we have received, we have every reason to be truly thankful for the blessed lives we have lived.

To this short list I hope you can add many other great gifts you have received. But I don’t want us to finish this journey without answering the question posed at the beginning, and I have what I believe is the answer to the question for all of us, whether we have accepted that gift or not. It is the gift of Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, as given to us by our loving God.

Jesus asks a question that makes this clear in Mark 8:36. We read, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” The answer is obvious: The world we gain will slip out of our lives just as surely as we will one day die. It will be worth nothing. But the salvation of our souls is eternal. Jesus’ promise to be with us always is constant. The Holy Spirit’s power to energize our faith and our lives is unending. The promise to live eternally in the presence of God is the most precious promise of all.

Have you accepted that Jesus Christ is the greatest gift you have ever been given today? Make a pledge to yourself to re-commit your life to Jesus Christ every day for the rest of your life. When was the last time you told someone about the day you gave your life to Jesus Christ? Have you ever told your kids? Have you ever told your spouse? Have you ever asked anyone to tell you their story?

We are in the last days of this year’s celebration of Christmas. Take some time to write or say a Christmas prayer, and share it with someone else.