Sometimes, Christmas still has that sparkle. The snow fell pretty heavily yesterday morning, leaving us to the warmth of lamps, blankets, and instrumental carols to complete the picture. By noon, the pajama-clad children are all napping on the couch, one on top of another like puppies, surrounded by empty boxes, stray wrapping paper, and all of the newly discovered treasures. There is just something magical, even surreal, about the Christmas festivities.
I was thinking about all of the gifts exchanged and received, and how much there seems to be in the moment. One gift right after another with barely time to look at them before they are scattered amidst the boxes, bags, bows, and packaging that hid them: between gifts of clothing, tools, toys, books, snacks, gadgets, and novelties, it suddenly feels like everything in your life is new, as though this is the first day of a life defined by different things than the last year. The thought made me stop and count what exactly my gifts had been this Christmas. I don’t mean to reduce how thoughtful they are, or how much I will enjoy them, but realistically, a few sweaters and scarves, a tote bag of snacks, and a novelty lamp will change very little about my day to day life once the glimmer of this charming Christmas day has worn off. I will enjoy them, but I will still have to come back to the firm reality of the world and admit that these things are just amusements. I had some very significant time with Jesus this Christmas, but I also came to realize how whimsical so many of my expectations of a “good” Christmas day are.
Another thing that stood out to me this year was in giving gifts to my friends at work. With the month of December being so busy, I only put together small gifts this year, but the response I got surprised me. Nearly everyone to whom I gave a gift hesitated at first and asked “Is this for me?” I teased some for being surprised (“No, I just wanted you to hold it” *wink*), but their voices really did sound affected. A stranger might ask such a thing if given a gift, but there were friends and co-laborers with whom I work day in and day out. Did it actually surprise them that someone was thinking of them?
The roads we walk are often hard. Jesus is always there with us, to pick us up when we fall, and to refresh us when we are weary, but I underestimate how often He does this through His family. The whimsical gifts fade, but anything with a hint of Jesus in it lasts, in as much as He is in it. I have known things even as small as a smile that touches the eyes or a good-night hug to have a realness, a solidness, to them that all of the “real” material things seem to lack. Those glimpses of Jesus are the things that keep me anchored during the difficult times. From the moment that they are given, they may be as small as seeds, but they can quickly become the roots that keep us stable in the midst of the harshest storms.
It can be a struggle to keep scattering seeds when we often cannot see the results, but it is something that is starting to spur me on to love more actively and directly. It may seem silly to invest time and resources in people who don’t seem to need the attention, or who don’t seem to want it, but the seeds God gives us were meant to be scattered. Whether they will face heat, thorns, or be eaten by birds, so that we never see where those seeds come up, is for Him to decide. He may move us on to other fields before we even know which patches were the good soil.
Is that not to our benefit? We would be so quick to decided what “good soil” looked like if the Lord always let us see at face value the results of our devotion to Him. His words to us were “freely ye have received, freely give.” What if we could move past our fears, and love and serve others as often as we feel the need to be loved? The thought that “This is for me?” could mean that I have given someone a seed in the midst of a hard time makes me long to give away everything I own to bless others. What might I be keeping that could be used to bring hope to others? When might my timidity be keeping me from reaching out to someone in public who may need a friendly smile or a kind word? Christmastime has its whimsical charms, but I want to see Jesus Himself. I pray that I will love more freely in the New Year.