Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Christmas Gift by Martin Wiles

His eyes welled with tears as he opened the envelope. The gift was the most unselfish act he’d ever witnessed. 

Harry* was about to experience the most agonizing Christmas of his life. A few months before he had taken out a consolidation loan. The loan seemed like the right approach to his family’s financial situation. With a lower interest rate than he was currently paying to his separate creditors, this loan would let him pay them off quicker than if he kept going the direction he was traveling. So with his wife’s blessing he signed the paperwork and began paying the monthly payment. 

Life seemed good for Harry. His job was rewarding, secure, and paid an honorable salary—enough for his family to live on comfortably. He planned to keep doing what he enjoyed for many years to come. But life changed suddenly. He noticed his wife was changing. She associated with a different set of friends, worked longer hours, frequented places she shouldn’t, and became more distant in the process. 

Harry was concerned but never imagined what he would hear one day when his wife called him into the bedroom. “I don’t love you anymore,” she whispered. And then topped this news off by admitting to an affair with a mutual friend. What seemed like a safe and cozy world immediately shattered into a million pieces. He couldn’t form a thought. His mind raced in hundreds of different directions. Anger mixed with sadness. A thousand questions entered and exited his mind before he could answer them. 

Failed attempts at reconciliation eventually led to their separation and eventual divorce. Harry was left with two teenage children and bills he couldn’t pay. Not only had his wife walked away from him, she had also walked away from their mutual responsibilities. His family disintegration also led to the loss of his once secure job. The only employment available to him paid a mere pittance of what he had once earned. Bills lagged farther behind, one of which was the consolidation loan he had taken out just months before the bad news broke. He struggled to make the payment—and thus far had, but he knew the day was rapidly approaching when he wouldn’t be able to find the funds anymore.

December arrived, and with it the prospect of meager presents, mounting bills, and one that would go unpaid—his consolidation loan. In spite of his depressed mood, Harry agreed to continue his traditional Christmas celebration with his parents, siblings, and their families. For a number of years, the family had made a practice of sitting in a circle, having the grandchildren pass out presents, and then one by one open and display their presents for the others to adore. Everyone understood why Harry didn’t have any gifts to share this year, but the pile lying at his feet was monumental nevertheless. One was a simple white envelope that read, “To Dad, From Goof (his facetious nickname for his daughter).” 

Harry’s curiosity tempted him to open the envelope first, but his daughter warned him this present was the last one he could open. Reluctantly, he opened his other presents one by one, but the enjoyment he would have normally got from opening them was trumped by his anticipation over what was in the envelope. 

Finally, the envelope was the only gift remaining. Carefully, he tore through the scotch tape that held it securely shut. As he carefully ran his fingers into the envelope and extracted the contents, a bundle of money fell into his lap. He counted it and discovered the exact amount needed to make his loan payment. His teenage daughter who worked three part time jobs while attending high school had saved enough to help him do what he couldn’t have done otherwise. Never before had he received a gift like this one. 

But Harry’s gift—as unselfish as it was, pales in comparison to a greater gift given almost 2,000 years ago. Angels announced this offering to shepherds living in the fields. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! (Luke 2:9-11 NLT)

Harry was reluctant to accept his daughter’s gift even though he needed it desperately. She had worked so hard for this money and could have used it to purchase things she wanted. But he honored her unselfishness by slipping it into his pocket and giving her a big hug followed by an “I love you.”

God’s gift was extremely unselfish as well. He gave it with no strings attached. All we must do is willingly accept it, slip it into our hearts, and he’ll do the rest by letting the results of our acceptance change our lives and the lives of others. 
*Name changed to protect the individual’s privacy.

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