When I was three years old, it was a doll called “Miss Peep.” When I was eight, it was a bicycle painted in my favorite color (purple!), complete with a handle-barred white basket with pink and purple flowers. When I was 19, it was an engagement ring. When I was 25, it was my bachelor’s degree and my first job as a writer for a newspaper. Each time I thought, “This is the greatest gift!”
Dolls come apart, bicycles get traded, engagements are broken (mine due to his infidelity and subsequent departure to marry someone else), papers dull, and jobs change (although I am still a writer). During the Christmas season, we’re bombarded by ads to BUY, BUY, BUY, and kids beg and whine to their parents to get them “the greatest gift.” We’re led to believe we need more stuff, bigger, stronger, faster … made to feel we can’t live without the latest gadget, largest TV, or fastest car. But, gadgets give out, TVs go on the fritz, and cars get T-boned. And, even with what we do have left when our time on earth is finished, as the saying goes, “you can’t take it with you” … or as John Ortberg so succinctly says in his book, “it all goes back in the box.”
Gifts are amazing. The saying goes, “Your life is a gift from God; what you make of it is your gift to Him.” A recent sermon at my church spoke to that, mostly in the form of our work and our volunteerism. The minister reminded us work is a gift – whether we work outside or inside the home. We’re blessed to use our talents, to positively impact people, and to make a wage to pay bills … or not make a wage and serve/care for our families.
Gifts also come to us in the forms of talents and abilities. Whether one has the gift of music, the gift of hospitality, the gift of managing, the gift of writing – each one is important and wonderful; I appreciate those traits in people. Again, our gifts/talents are from God and what we do with them is our gift to Him (and to others).
Gifts of material things, such as diamond jewelry, candy, flowers, a car – those are wonderful as well. I appreciate the gifts my family and friends give me on my birthday, for no “special reason,” and for Christmas. But, it’s not the “stuff” that makes me smile as much as the love and care with which those gifts are given. The relationships, those family members and friends, are gifts themselves. Recently my husband gave me the gift of taking our little family (us and the two dogs) to our mountain cabin. He had spent the previous weekend snow-blowing and plowing our long driveway from the main road to the cabin. This hasn’t been done in recent years because the blower/plow needed repair and we didn’t have the money to fix it. He spent two long afternoons ensuring we could drive in to the property so that our nearly 17-year-old Cody dog could go with us and not have to walk (or be carried). We spent a delightful, sunny Sunday afternoon basking in the beauty that is our mountain hideaway, and though I’m not much of a snow or winter person anymore, the majesty of brilliant blue, sunny skies, peace and quiet, and the aura of Christmas delighted my heart and relaxed my spirit. That was a special gift of love he gave me (plus, Greg enjoys winter much more than I do! But I still greatly appreciated the gift of his time spent making the trek possible and the time we shared eating soup, reading, and simply enjoying the scenery).
The gift of love is the greatest gift, and during this Christmas season I’m reminded of the greatest gift of all – the love my Heavenly Father bestowed, giving his one and only Son, so that, as Scripture says, “whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life.”
Christmas isn’t just packages under a tree, festive light displays on the lawn, or mistletoe above the doorway (although those are nice) – Christmas is love from friends family and the One who Created us. Christmas is loved wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manager … then, 33 years later, dying on a cross and rising from the grave. Without Christ there is no “Christ-mas”, it’s just another day. The greatest gift of all is Jesus – He is love … and mercy … and hope … and so much more. I pray we each unwrap that precious present, the greatest gift of all – the very Love of God, which was given to each one of us that first Christmas, a present from the past that continues into the future, given to us every day.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and two dog devotion boos: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released August 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, Creation Illustrated, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal, River Press, and Douglas Budget newspapers. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at www.gaylemirwin.com.