Dr. RB McFee
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever shall believe in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
John 3:16 KJV
To be sure, Jesus is the greatest Gift, One so awesome only God could provide. It didn’t come with a bow, or candy cane atop wrapping paper. Its package wasn’t silk lined. God’s gift was unwrapped. Unwrappable actually. And eternal. And a Present without price.
That said, it’s funny how you set out to write on a particular idea or theme, only to have events occur that cause an unscheduled detour. But life is all about adapting to change.
Clearly the Gospel writer Luke reminds us that adaptation was part of this Season of Light and Love, this time of Jesus’ birth. I’m sure Joseph didn’t intend to have Mary deliver Jesus in Bethlehem, among strangers, after traveling many days journey from the Galilee to the Jerusalem region.
We often find things out of our control; especially it would seem at Christmas. Amazon® on back order. Or promises of ‘batteries included;….they weren’t! Or the classic toymaker assertion ‘minimal assembly required,’ which translated means have the engineering department at WPI on standby. Oh and my personal favorite, ever try leaving a Furby ® toy quietly by a friend’s door, in the hope of being an actual secret Santa? News Alert…. Furby’s® talk at will, and often at the most inopportune moments. Stealth is not their strong suit!
But one adapts.
Like planning on writing an article about a Special Gift, only to find myself in a different place.
Life happens, as does death. It is what we do in those moments that characterizes us, and our faith. It is who we have surrounded ourselves with, or better said God has introduced into our lives that define what matters.
So what do we do when life throws us a curve ball? We pray. And we ask others to pray for us. A simple act? Perhaps. One of priceless proportion? Yes!
Have you ever been prayed for, and somehow know it? The feeling is akin to be hugged with a warm blanket, or drinking a cup of hot chocolate – you just feel infused with a sense of goodness you cannot explain. The sense that someone is thinking on and caring about you – whether solo, or as a church prayer team is powerful. It is a gift, the kind you can’t wrap, but yields eternal blessings.
Consider this simple notion - if we have kind friends who care more about faith, the joys of living, helping others, and serving more than the less charitable, selfless options available in contemporary society, chances are God has blessed us with what I call the unwrappable gifts, the eternal blessings, presents without price.
Why unwrappable? Who sits still long enough to be covered in paper and Christmas themed tape? Even my puppy shot my parents a look when they sat him down next to some Santa wrap.
You cannot wrap a friend’s outreach. You cannot wrap a conversation that uplifts at a time when you feel anything but inspired.
You cannot wrap Jesus, as God’s Gift to us, or wrap each of us when we are gift givers in the spirit He so greatly hoped to inspire….a phone call out of the blue, offered “just because I was thinking of you.” Or a hug because your friend or loved one looked like he or she needed it; same with a kind word, forgiveness, or letting someone know you are thinking about and praying for them.
All of these reflect Jesus’ love, and none of them can be wrapped.
Put differently – some of the best gifts can’t be wrapped, or even purchased!
And their value? Forget Bit coin ® or crypto-currency. The unwrappable present of God’s great Gift, and the gifts of love He meant to inspire are all without price; they are eternal blessings, gifts without price, priceless presents.
Jesus through His actions gave us examples so that we, too, could try and become eternal blessings. Friendship, love, kindness, compassion, prayers, making time for others, a shoulder to lean on, willingness to listen, choosing to offer a soft word even if most mere mortals would offer a snarky one – these are the things that last in our hearts and memories, unwrappable gifts, eternal blessings, presents without price.
But you can give them freely, and often.
At this time of year when turtle doves, geese laying golden rings, and dancers floating all about the front yard as someone’s idea of a useful gift occupy center stage, I wonder how many unwrappable gifts are needed, and how many we have inside us waiting to be given, delivered to friends and strangers who might benefit from them.
The clock is ticking.
The other night I learned that a friend lost a loved one. I knew the man. And had he lived, would likely have become her husband. Death is never easy, but the sting seems sharper when it occurs in youth. No words can mitigate the pain. That is way above all our pay grades, and rests at the Cross, at the Throne.
And as I thought about her, the family, friends, and strangers that were praying for her, it dawned on me, that is an unwrappable gift, an eternal blessing, a priceless present.
Think about your own life; how often are you blessed by a prayer, a visit, a phone call, an email, a text from one of the church prayer warriors, or a friend? God has blessed you with an unwrappable gift, an eternal blessing, the present without price.
Scrolling through emails I noticed our prayer warriors were needed for so many people in our midst. Just think about our praying team at church, our own default position to pray for someone reflexively when we hear a need, or a joy. Are we not indeed blessed for folks who will share their time and spirit to make lighter the burdens of others? Are these not the unwrappable gift, the eternal blessing, the present without price?
On New Year’s Eve a close friend passed away. Our church had been praying for him over the last year or so. By that evening several emails, and phone calls of kindness came. Those are unwrappable gifts, eternal blessings, presents without price.
Not long afterwards a valued friend and I got a hike in, then spent time hanging over hot chocolate – sharing camaraderie, condolence, some insights and wisdom, ‘MG’ put into specific relief why we are here on planet earth – to support each other, to reach out and share in laughter, sadness, ups and downs. A new friend, she understood the value of the unwrappable gift, the eternal blessing, and the present without price that comes from giving oneself.
That night another valued friend ‘KP’ called. Just to listen! Just to be there. She put aside her many commitments and responsibilities to share my experience. She too reminded me of her unwrappable gift, eternal blessing, present without price.
So many people like ‘JK’ and others reached out. This matters. These are the unwrappable gift, the eternal blessing, present without price.
Loss is part of the human experience. There is a Jewish expression – “may their memory be a blessing.” It is simple, elegant, and sums up what a life well lived ought to be – the very act of thinking about that person results in a smile, warm thoughts that far outweigh the pain of absence, good reminiscences.
Friendship - the unwrapped gift, the eternal blessing, the priceless present. Cherish it, be a good one, seek it out, offer it.
“16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
God gave us the Ultimate Gift – His Son Jesus. He was and is an unwrappable Gift, the Eternal Blessing, and the Present without price. As His followers, our actions can be the light in someone’s darkness.
In His Spirit we, too can be the unwrappable gift, the eternal blessing, the present without price.