And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. I Thessalonians 2:13 (NIV)
Youngest son is going on a mission trip to Brazil in the spring. They will fly to a city where they will take a bus to the Amazon River and board a boat. The boat will take them twenty four hours up the river to a village where they will do a construction project for a week. He is very excited about going, and we are happy that he will be able to be a part of the team. The leaders are making an exception to take him as he is under eighteen, but because he is the size of a man and has the strength of a man they have agreed he may go. In fact, one of the leaders announced that he will be behind our son all the way. Literally behind, as youngest son could rival Survivor Man any day. The opportunity to participate came rather suddenly. While he needs a passport, visa and shots, the main push has been to raise the money to pay for the trip as the whole amount is due in less than eight weeks. It is a lot of money especially when you are sixteen and don’t have a job. On Saturday, the team is having a garage sale. I have spent most of the week going through closets, cabinets and the attic, pulling out things that I think might sell. I have a huge pile of linens that date back to our wedding, coffee makers, dishes and Christmas stuff. Tomorrow, we hope to go through the high attic and pull down some old toys. In my search, I found a shoe box full of letters I wrote to my husband before we were married. We dated in High School, but I went off to college leaving him at home free to date other people. I did the same, but by my senior year, we were back together again. That was in the days before cell phones and cheap long distance service. We resorted to cards and letters to communicate. It was funny and poignant to go through them again after so many years. Such longing. Such promises. Such hope. He says he read each one many times. They must have meant a lot if he kept them all this time. I’ve heard the Bible referred to as God’s love letter to us. He gave it to us to communicate His love for us, but how often, it sits upon our shelf unread. If someone sent you a letter, would you keep it sealed, just gazing at it, but never opening it? No, of course not. You would rush to open it, reading it several times and keeping it for the future to remind you of that person. When was the last time you opened God’s love letter to you? When youngest son goes to Brazil, I will send him off with a packet of mail. Hopefully, he will read each one and be reminded how much I love him.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NIV)
I admit to being caught up in the pre Christmas frenzy. I have been shopping and wrapping and generally making myself crazy trying not to forget anyone on my list. I made a mad sweep through the stores Thanksgiving weekend and got most of my gifts for family members. I still have employees to buy for as well as a few friends. I feel unsettled until I get it all done so I can enjoy the rest of the holiday. My frenzy must be noticeable, for youngest son left a candy wrapper for me on the kitchen counter. At first, I thought he had just left his trash laying about as he usually does, but then, I read the inside of the wrapper. It was a Dove Chocolate and they put those clever sayings inside. This one said, “Spending Time is a greater gift than spending money.” Uh, oh. In years past, we focused on gifts that were gifts of time. We planned trips or excursions, gave gift certificates for dinner, services or activities and tried to give time rather than money. It takes all year to redeem those kinds of gifts. We took my husband’s folks to an antique boat show. Treated my niece to a play. Went swimming with the manatees with our boys. They were all fun times and built a lot of memories. But, I still owe my sister and mom a trip to St. Augustine from last year. We just haven’t been able to get a weekend where we all can go. Lately, with changes in my job and other responsibilities, I have little time, so this year, thought it easier to buy a material gift that could be wrapped and done with. I find that it is not as easy as I thought. I stress more over my check book and what to buy than I ever did before. What size to buy? What color do they prefer? Is this the right style? Who knows what to get someone who already has everything? I think my old ways were wiser than this hectic pace of throwing money every which way. It is too late this year, but next year, I am going back to giving gifts of time again. Really, that is how Christmas began. The Son of God came to earth to spend time with us. He knew that He could give us all kinds of blessings, money, prestige, stuff. Instead, He came in the flesh to build relationships with people, to invest Himself in their lives. He wants to do that with us today and He wants us to do it with those He places in our lives. How about you? Tired of spending money? Spend some time with your family and friends instead. And spend some time with God as well. The gift of yourself is the greatest gift you can give them. And it is the only one that God really wants from you, as well.