22 Dec 2011
The Names On Our Gifts
One Christmas Eve when the kids were young, Sweet Maria and I we were up late wrapping presents. We were almost delirious and got most of the tape and ribbons stuck to ourselves. We had picked out just the right gifts for each of our children. Things they would love. Things which reflected what they were hoping for and who they were becoming. We finished up and slid the presents under the tree. “Won’t the kids love these?” we whispered to each other in the pre-dawn hours.
The next morning, the kids ran downstairs to the Christmas tree. Because the kids were only four feet tall, it must have looked like there was a mountain of presents there and everyone grabbed one with their name on it. The sound of excited giggling and tearing wrapping paper filled the room for a moment, but then was followed by absolute silence as the dull thud of
shattered expectations began ricocheting off of our decorated walls.
I don’t remember who ended up with what, but I think Richard opened up a doll, Lindsey got a BB gun and some ammo and Adam got a blender and box of cookie mix. Instead of celebrating the gifts we’d picked out specially for each of our children, we spent the morning sorting out who was meant to get what. The reason for the confusion,chaos and disappointment under our roof was simple. Somehow, between one and two in the morning in our exhaustion leading up to Christmas, all of the tags for the gifts got mixed up and were put on the wrong presents. I don’t know if it was Sweet Maria who did it or if it was me, but I bet it was me.
It’s easy for us to do the same thing in life. Just about now, many of us are feeling exhausted from a long year. A year punctuated by tremendous joys, painful sorrows, rich family times as well as incredibly lonely times. Times when our expectations were running high and when we’ve also felt let down by certain of our circumstances. For many of us, we’ve experienced tremendous uncertainty and periods of exhaustion too. If you’re like me, I mislabel my worries about the future as fear; my pride as regret; and my insecurity as anxiety. It’s the time where it would be easy to mislabel the other gifts around us too.
Let’s not mislabel the gifts. We’ll call our fears, regrets and insecurities what they are – they’re not gifts; they are residue of something else going on in our lives. They are probably exhaustion speaking with the wrong tag on it. They aren’t the things God picked out for us and are just noise in our lives. What God picked for us was something more special; something better suited to us; something we were hoping for; something that points us towards who God is and who He wants us to become. And we don’t even need to act surprised when we figure out that gift either. It’s our friends.
Forget counting sheep. Our friends are the blessings God wants us staying up late counting. A few of us have the wrong people in our lives and if you do, you need to lose them. But for most of us, He’s picked out just the right friends for us to do life with. Ones who know what we’re hoping for and what God is hoping for us too. They know who we’re becoming in the confusion, chaos and disappointments of life and even in that, they continue to point us towards God with their lives.
This year, I’m going to make sure that I don’t I let someone sneak under the tree and mislabel all of the presents. Instead, I’m going to stand watch with a couple friends as God reminds us again of His tremendous love for us in the celebrations around a child King. Jesus is our gift; He’s the one with our name on Him and not surprisingly, He gave us a gift that we need the most in life – some great friends to do it with. He’s left behind our friends with our names labeled on each one. Friends who are well suited to us; who point us towards Jesus; who help us figure out what we should be hoping for. And before He left, Jesus told the ones who traveled with Him that He had a new name to describe how He felt about us - He said now He calls us friends too.
Merry Christmas, friends.