A Great Gift
Hello all! Josh here. Have you ever received a truly great gift? Not just a good gift, but one that sticks out in your mind as something truly great? I think of Christmases past where I received great gifts. In the list of great gifts are video games which I stayed up all night playing with my brothers, camera equipment which gave me my start in photography, and this past year several interesting books including a Minecraft Bible! Who knew such a thing existed!
What makes a great gift? The arrival of my daughter Leah has truly given me reason to consider this question. Here's my answer: A great gift is three things: it is a surprise, it is valuable and it represents the relationship.
Note: this is a modification from a friend's talk given years ago. Thanks Jason!
A great gift is a surprise.
The fact that a gift was a surprise means that the person giving it made the effort to keep it a secret. They cared enough about the experience to not spoil it. There was a plan in place. Things were not haphazard or hurried. The surprise added excitement and thoughtfulness. When the revealing of a gift corresponded with a birthday, holiday or other important event, the surprise made the event even more memorable and important. One of the reasons I loved Christmas growing up was the build up to Christmas Day: the day we got to open presents. I would spend weeks analyzing the wrapped presents to try and figure out what they had inside. My parents, wanting to keep Christmas special, would make me wait. They had a plan and stuck to it because they knew Christmas gifts are great when they are a surprise.
A great gift has value.
I think of growing up, my parents, in addition to the stocking stuffers, would save up for one "big gift" each year. I knew that budgets were tight and that each year purchasing the big gift meant sacrifice. It was expensive. It was valuable. It meant my parents were working very hard and saving for months. Knowing how valuable the big gift was and thus how much my parents must have gone through to get it, made the big gift a great one.
A great gift represents the relationship between the giver and recipient.
The best gifts I have received over the years were the ones where someone said, "I just knew you would love this!" The giver knew me. They knew what I wanted or needed. They knew my personality. They knew what video game would keep me occupied for days, what photo gear I needed or what topics I would enjoy reading about. Great gifts magnify the relationship between the gift-er and gift-ee. On a side note, I think Yankee Swaps suffer greatest in this department. Due to the nature of the swap, you give and get a generic gift, and not one intended for any person in particular.
Our new baby Leah Olive is one of the greatest gifts Cait and I have ever received.
She was a surprise in every way. We were completely surprised that we conceived naturally after being diagnosed with unexplained infertility. We were surprised by the wait for her; Leah coming at 41 weeks and 1 day and after 42 hours of labor. We were (very!) surprised by her weight of 9 pounds 11 ounces. We are still processing all of our emotions, but what keeps us grounded is that God is in control and has a plan; that Leah came at the exact right time in our lives, marriage, and careers. She is so valuable. She has God's fingerprints all over her. We understand how people say, "I would do anything for my child." Even when we were running on about 2 hours sleep in 2 days, all we could say is, "She's worth it!" to friends we saw in the hospital. God knows us. He knows the years of praying for a child. We believe that God is the Good Father who gives good gifts. By giving us Leah, we are able to understand God's fatherly love for us a little more.
Christmas this past year was particularly meaningful as Cait and I were the "Expectant Mary & Joseph" in our church's Christmas program. (Another couple who recently had a newborn were the "Postpartum Mary & Joseph." Haha! We love our church!) We were able to process Christmas from a fresh perspective. Jesus was a surprise to Mary, Joseph and the entire world. Despite waiting generations for a Messiah, Jesus was missed by many. God's son was a lowly carpenter from a no-name town. That he was a servant. Jesus came at exactly the right time and in the right way. We are beginning to understand how valuable God's only son was to Him. We can't imagine giving up our child for anything. We can't imagine what Jesus' mother Mary went through. God knows us. He knows our potential. He knows our purpose. He knows all our good sides and bad sides. He knows the trash in our lives that needs to get tossed out in order to enter into a relationship with God. When it comes down to it, He knows what we all need: a Savior.
One of our favorite quotes of the Bible says, "...You can’t take credit for [salvation]; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done . . ." Our relationship with God is the greatest gift we have ever received. God's surprising plan, through Jesus' valuable sacrifice, was to bring us into exactly what we most need: a relationship with Himself. Amen.
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