3. CARDS AND PRESENTS: GIFTS OF GRACE
THIS SERIES: FINDING EMMANUEL IN THE STUFF OF CHRISTMAS
As the year winds inexorably to its close, stress levels are going through the roof. A pre-pandemic YouGov survey in 2019 found that the season had a negative effect on the mental health of 25% of the adult population in the UK. It seems that family time, present-buying, decorations and feasting come with a price tag that is not just financial.
How can we walk in rest in the middle of all of this? How can we centre down and focus on Emmanuel when those around us are stressed? How can we avoid the ‘stuff’ of Christmas being a strain rather than a pleasure?
This series of posts is focusing on sprinkling our festive preparations with faith-filled breathing-spaces, Sabbath Moments which become gateways to meet with Jesus. (Click back at the foot of the page to read the first two posts.)
NATIVITY SCENES AND HOLLY
This week, let’s think about the giving of cards and presents. When we give generously, (according to our means) we reflect our Heavenly Father, the Great Giver, who showers us with blessings. And of course, Christmas celebrates the greatest gift of all, the coming of our Saviour.
For this reason, I was glad to see that Royal Mail’s Christmas stamps this year feature Nativity scenes (along with the Queen’s head for the final time). It may be a small thing, but still a statement of truth in a world where misinformation rules
But cards, whether ‘religious’ or not, can also be a means of grace to the recipients. We learn in Acts that ‘God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.’ [Acts 19:11-12]
What if we applied the same principle to the cards we send, and pray over them that each of them would carry an anointing; that they would be the means by which the Lord would come present in a new and powerful way to each recipient, and a means of grace to whoever handles them? (Just imagine Paul’s handkerchief dropping through the letterbox—or however your post arrives—or into the inbox!) And when seen this way, the money spent on postage becomes part of our love-gift.
And what if we made the act of writing them a Sabbath Moment? What if we took time to stop, breathe out all our stresses, and then prayed simply, ‘Come Lord Jesus’?
Likewise, when we give presents with love and generosity, we correctly image God, and they too become a means of grace. The recipient not only receives a gift, but the love of the giver, and the presence of the Master Giver.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Our Father delights in finding things which bless us. A few years ago, my husband and I moved to the beautiful border-country between Scotland and England, an area which was completely new to us. Our new home was an amazing answer to prayer, and for months we explored the area and marvelled at the Lord’s wonderful provision. We found that so many of our deepest desires had been met, not only in our home, but in its location. And I often felt, as we found something new to exclaim over, that I heard the Lord saying, ‘I thought you’d like that!’
We are created to be like Him. Let’s take time to pray for gift-ideas which will really bless our family and friends, according to our means. Let’s be creative, gifts do not need to be financially challenging, they can include all sorts of home-made items, or ‘vouchers’ for gifts of quality time to be redeemed later. (If you have blessed loved-ones with low-cost, high-value gifts, why not share your ideas in the comments below?)
Alternatively, you could give the precious gift of time: soup kitchens, entertainment for the elderly, sorting donations—the list is endless.
We read that the Macedonian church ‘gave themselves first of all to the Lord’ before giving their gifts for the poor [1 Corinthians 8:1-5]. Every Christmas gift we give is part of our worship. So, let’s take time as we wrap our presents, or give our time, to make it a Sabbath Moment, to focus our gaze upon Him, and ask Emmanuel to come close. Then offer up our gift to the One who has given us everything.
And then let’s pray for the Lord’s grace to flow as we give our gifts, that as givers we would reflect Him, and that the receivers would have a glimpse of the One who supplies all their needs abundantly.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman,
born under the law to redeem those who were under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Come Lord Jesus. Through these gifts, we loose the revelation of the Father’s overflowing love and generosity. Amen.
THIS WEEK’S GRACE RHYTHM:
ADVENT: CELEBRATING THE COMING KING
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[Photo credits: Royal Mail (stamps); Annie Spratt (cards); Mel Poole (presents);
Annie Spratt (card and lights) @ Unsplash, with thanks]
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Da Kraplak (type writer);
Merakist (social media)
@ Unsplash, with thanks]
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