Something you can give this Christmas

Published 6:31 pm Monday, December 4, 2017

It was in the midst of all the bad and sad that God sent his most miraculous gift, Jesus, so Advent, Christmas is a season of preparing for and remembering what gifts God has given us through the Christmas story — sensitivity, wonder, expectation, the best, salvation and hope.

But Advent, Christmas also means that we are focusing on what human gifts or cards we might send or give to our family members, friends and others. Since we are in the early days of this beautiful season, I have been thinking particularly of several possible gifts all of us can give to others that might make life better for them and for us. These are simply practical gifts or ways we can renew our investment in one another, as God renewed his investment in us that first Christmas.

First, we can give our time. The most precious thing any of us have to give is our time. Someone has correctly stated, “Love is spelled ‘T-I-M-E.’” Suppose we took the time to visit a friend we haven’t seen in months or write a letter to someone who needs to hear from us or participate in some kind of needed ministry.

Recently, I read about a man who had a high school teacher he appreciated so much for introducing him to Tennyson. A friend asked him if he had ever expressed his appreciation to his teacher, a Mrs. Simpson? He replied that he had not. The friend then challenged him to write Mrs. Simpson a letter of thanks, and he acceptance the challenge.

In a couple of weeks, a hand written note came back by return mail. I quote the last paragraph of Mrs. Simpson’s letter: “You will be interested to know that I taught school for 50 years and, in all that time, yours is the first note of appreciation I ever received. It came on a blue, cold morning, and it cheered my lonely old heart as nothing has cheered me in many years.” We can give our time.

Second, we can give our empathy. One meaning of empathy is “being sensitive to the feelings, thoughts and experiences of another.” Sometime back my wife and I attended a championship football game. The stadium was packed, and there was much expectancy in the air. A few rows down from us there were three young adults who jumped up and stood up for every play. This caused the people behind them not to see the game, unless they also stood. This activity went on for practically the whole game. The three young adults stood and everybody behind them had to stand. I noticed that the lady sitting directly behind the three young adults had spoken to them earlier in the game, most probably about the fact she couldn’t see. Having no success, the lady finally went to the stadium authorities. Then there was a State Trooper brought to the scene.

Let’s be clear. The issue here became the three young adult’s right to stand over against the right of the lady behind them to see. What a shame. “Rights replaced empathy.” There was no walking in another’s shoes. We can pull and yell for our team alright, but we can also practice empathy. It will not only make the game, but life, more enjoyable for everybody.

Third, we can intentionally forgive. Forgiveness is not forgive and forget. Rather, it is remember and forgive. A committee I know about was considering the future of a young man. He had been foolish. In drifting into bad company, he had brought sorrow and embarrassment to his family and employer. As the committee considered the right course of action, one of the committee members, of great compassion, said, “What this young man needs is a clean sheet, and we ought to be loving enough to give him one.”

Long story short, the committee gave the young man a second chance and because of that re-investment, that young man has been redeemed. We can forgive.

Fourth, we can give our prayers. It is difficult to think of a better gift to give others than our prayers. When we pray for someone, we will just naturally want to involve ourselves in becoming the answer to our own prayers. David Allan Hubbard, former President of Fuller Theological Seminary and noted author, wrote in his book on prayer these words, “The purest form of love is given with no expectation of return. Measured by this standard, earnest prayer for others is a magnificent act of love.”

And fifth, we can offer friendship. In the book, “The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House,” authors Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, describe Billy Graham’s relationship with the maligned President Lyndon Johnson. The authors write, “More than anything else, Billy Graham gave Lyndon Johnson what he most craved: ‘Love without strings.” These authors are talking about Billy Graham’s offer of friendship.

It is reported that Henry Ford once took a man to lunch. He asked him, “Who is your best friend?” Before the man could answer, Henry Ford answered his own question. He took a napkin and wrote on it, “Your best friend is the one who brings out the best in you.” We can offer friendship.

As you are aware, these practical suggestions are only a few of our gift possibilities. But let us be sure that each of these gifts, given, are  guaranteed to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those who receive them and give them as well.

Hal Brady operates Hal Brady Ministries in Decatur with the stated goal of presenting the good news of Jesus and offering encouragement in positive ways.