Carrying out this social relief work involves far more than helping meet the bare needs of poor Christians. It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God. This relief offering is a prod to live at your very best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the Message of Christ. You show your gratitude through your generous offerings to your needy brothers and sisters, and really toward everyone. 2 Corinthians 9:11-12 (The Message)
Over ten years ago, youngest son found a toy in the grocery store that he wanted for Christmas. In our house, you only asked Santa for three things so you had to be selective. But, this toy was so important to him, that he included it as one of the three wishes in his letter to Santa. I tried to discourage him, but he insisted. It wasn’t that the item was expensive or unavailable. It was because it was located on the pet food aisle. Youngest son’s had to have gift was a dog toy in the shape of a bear skin. It looked like a teddy bear without the stuffing. A miniature bear rug. With squeakers in each paw and head. I never did figure out what he saw in it, but Santa always brought what they asked for when they asked for something reasonably priced. Santa didn’t question whether it was reasonable, only reasonably priced. And I have to admit, dog toy or not, it was cute. For more than a decade, that dog toy/bear rug has been in youngest son’s room in pristine condition. It hung over his mirror for a while, then, on top of his bookcase. Last week, when Santa came early bringing the first unreasonable gift I think he has ever delivered, Summer, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever puppy, her boy got down his much treasured bear toy and offered it to her. I tried to talk him out of it, but he wanted her to have it and she loves it. She drags it all over the house squeaking its paws and head, lying on it to sleep and “killing” it by shaking it soundly. And I wonder if all those many years ago, the boy really wanted a puppy and not just a dog toy. We may never know. I’ve been thinking a lot about gifts this Christmas season. I have a lot of people on my list that I want to give presents to and even more people that I have to give presents to. I have people at work, friends at church, and family members who I am eager to gift with an expression of love and appreciation. And I have people in those same categories who I feel obliged to give a present for even when I am reluctant to spend money or time on them. It is a dilemma which I have pondered and am figuring out an answer to, but it is too late to do anything about this year. I do know this. There are seventy-eight children in Guatemala that need much more than a trinket. I am doing what I can this year, but next year, with better planning, I hope to do more. In the meantime, I am receiving much joy and laughter from a clumsy puppy and her bear “skin” that is bigger than she is. I sure hope youngest son is as well. I think his wish made ten years ago finally arrived.