Chapter Four in Grace at the Finish Line is entitled "The Perfect Christmas Gift." You saw mental images when you heard the word "Christmas." Maybe beautifully lit trees, gifts, banquet tables. Or perhaps you thought of a pretty red sweater or a new dress. Maybe your mind went back to your childhood, when you were too young to realize that mom and dad wouldn't always be with you. As children, we wanted only to receive, to be sure we got the same amount of gifts as our brother or sister. As we got older, we began to look at how much our gifts cost. Did someone spend as much on my gift as I spent on theirs? Are we being shortchanged? This incident in Chapter 4 happened at a very difficult time in my life.
My sister was going through a divorce. My father was dying of cancer. My husband had left me about six weeks before Christmas the year before. (What was he thinking? I'd already bought his gifts!) And this year my children were gone and I was left alone. I could only think of happier holiday times from the past. Oh I was feeling pretty low, carrying my own personal pity party with me. Like Linus with his blanket of dirt, I carried my own black blanket of sorrow.
My focus was very selfish. I won't tell you every detail and spoil this story for you but I worked this Christmas Day at the nursing home. I found myself supervising the resident's Christmas party. The man sitting in a wheelchair beside me had suffered the amputation of both legs. He smiled as the visitors sang and the minister read the Christmas story. Anticipation built as the cheer purveyors pulled out baskets laden with gifts for the residents. An enthusiastic young man approached my neighbor's chair and handed the gentleman a small package. I was shocked to see that his gift was a pair of socks. Now maybe because the visitor was young, he hadn't paid much attention to the wheelchair-bound man's condition. Maybe he was in a hurry to pass out the rest of his gifts.
I was so afraid that the elderly resident would be angry to receive socks. But he was so happy that someone gave of their time to visit. Or perhaps he was happy to see young people spreading the message of Christ on Christmas Day. Maybe he was just happy to be alive. He wasn't disappointed to get socks when he had no feet. He sincerely thanked the young man, who never noticed that the recipient of his gift had no feet. And when, through my broken heart and teary eyes, I watched a man who had nothing to give, a man who had been labeled useless and cast aside, think not of himself but of others, I was convicted of my selfishness. Had I missed that Christmas starts with Christ? Did I remember that Phillipians 2:5-7 said He emptied Himself, taking on the form of a slave, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross? He wasn't concerned with receiving gifts, but with giving, even giving His life for us.
Christmas is not about how much we have or what we receive. Its about giving to others. As this fine old gentleman reminded me, we all have something to give, even when we are having what we feel is a less than perfect Christmas. Perhaps what we give during those times is the most meaningful gift we can give. And maybe instead of counting the things we've lost, we should count our blessings instead.