Somehow my story has gotten around and many of you have asked me to share it more publicly. So, I bite my lip and paste it here…hope you enjoy! I wrote this in December of 2010.
Christmas, what a blessed season. A season of giving. A time to show how much we care. We get so excited when we find the perfect gift for the person we love. We look forward to seeing their surprise and joy over the gift we selected for them. We are taught, that it is “better to give then to receive”. Acts 20:35. We are taught that we should always think of others before ourselves. Christmas is the time of year when we see these values acted out more than any other time.
Every year in the past, my 3 children and I were sure to wrap a toy for a needy child, carol for the elderly and always we put our spare change in the red bucket outside of the store. Every year we went shopping for the special gifts to put under our tree for each other. We had a budget and usually blew it with the excitement of giving that perfect gift.
I never really gave a thought to the child who would get that toy we wrapped or what exactly happened to the spare change we threw into the red bucket. I never really stopped to consider how lonely and stressful it would be to not be able to give during this special time of year. I never thought about it until I was the one who had nothing to give and everything to receive. I was the one who gave and I was so happy to share. Then unexpectedly I had nothing to give even my own young children. I was sad and worried as we moved from Thanksgiving into the Christmas season, but I had no idea what lessons God had in store for me.
Suddenly, as the season began there were so many “giving” demands. $2 was need so my daughter could make an ornament at school, Shoeboxes needed to be filled for needy children, coats were being collected and we could even go to special concerts if we brought a new unwrapped toy as a donation. Then there was the gift exchange at church and of course the children wanted to drop their pennies into the red money-box outside the store.
To me, the “giving” season was no longer feeling so blessed. I needed those $2 to put gas in the car. My children were picking out clothes from the donation center. Our family could use a shoebox under the tree and there would be no special concerts for us because we could not afford to buy a toy. When we went to the store and passed the red money bucket, I would duck my head and rush on past with tears coming down my cheeks. It is more blessed to give than to receive.
But what if I have nothing to give?
I refused to complain. As a family we were determined to give thanks in all things. To have a joyful spirit. I wanted to teach my children that Jesus was looking after us and that is what mattered the most. But soon, unknown to us, word got out about our situation.
One day, someone dropped a small fake Christmas tree plus lights and ornaments off at our apartment. Then, someone slipped a gas card into my wallet at church. A food basket showed up at our doorstep and one special morning we found Christmas stockings for each of us! We felt so happy and so blessed!
Blessed? That started me thinking. Isn’t it more blessed to give? The Bible tells us about the woman who gave her last coins to the church. What about the widow who shared her last flour and oil to save a stranger? They were blessed beyond measure for their willingness to give.
I had to think hard about any stories that talked about receiving. Soon those stories started to come to me. Mary sat at Jesus feet and received his love and wisdom. The blind man received the gift of sight. The woman at the well received forgiveness and a new life. In fact, there seems to be many more stories of people who were blessed by receiving then by giving! Christ is our example in all things. He is the ultimate gift giver…this year, I began to think of him as the ultimate gift receiver too. Without question Jesus accepts our gifts of broken, crushed, humiliated and devastated lives. He smiles and laughs in complete joy when we offer up to Him our sin as a gift. He takes that gift with total Love for us. He unconditionally empties out the rusty pennies from our buckets and in His mercy he gives us His gifts of Love, of forgiveness, of companionship, of acceptance and of eternal life. He teaches us to give but He also teaches us to receive. It is indeed blessed to give, but I have learned that I am also very blessed to receive. He wants you and me to accept this gift, His gift, the ability to receive.