Let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:8-9 (NIV)
Christmas has officially arrived. The celebration kicked off tonight with husband’s side of the family’s gift exchange. Though I secretly wish that this side would start doing a name draw because as the family expands we now have three generations to buy for, I would never dare mention it. It’s not my side after all. In-laws might become out-laws at the suggestion. So, we carried a truck full of presents across the bridge where after consuming an enormous dinner, as is tradition, the youngest member of the family played Santa and handed out the presents. Youngest son finally got to relinquish that role as three year old, Miss Julia, was old enough for the honor. With a little help from grandma and me reading the tags, she very careful doled out all the presents to a roomful of people some of who were virtual strangers before eagerly delving into her own. It was sweet the way she counted each present as she opened it. Her momma has trained her right. She said thank you for everything she received, and then set it all aside for a $1.00 tube of colored chapstick smeared generously all over her face. I had been anxious about this event for days. I made all but three of the presents that we gave tonight. The bad thing about getting everything done early was that I had plenty of time to rethink the quality of my offerings. I had just about decided none of it was good enough when I forced myself to wrap it all and place it under the tree where I hoped to forget about it. It was like a piece of me went into each box. Would they like it? Would they reject it? Would they then dislike and reject me? I left my own gifts sitting beside my chair as I watched the group open my creations. My mother-in-law LOVED her alpaca and silk scarf and put it on immediately. As each gift was opened, there were exclamations from around the room. “Did you make this?” “This is beautiful.” “It is perfect.” Even one particular family member who is very difficult to please was enchanted with her gift, the eyeglass case with the black cat on it. I felt the knot in my stomach ease. They liked it all! In two more nights, we will replay the same scene with my side of the family, but after tonight I will not be as anxious. A lot of that side is getting felted hats. As I look at them, I think about the verse above. Jesus loved us enough to die in our place and offer us salvation. When we truly understand the depth of His love for us, just as a helmet protects a soldier, the hope of salvation protects our minds from feelings of unworthiness and failure. His sacrificial gift is the greatest ever given, and we don’t do a thing to earn it. Only accept it.