It’s that time of year, the time that our minds turn to gifts. Depending on where we are in life, we may be thinking of toys or money or vacations or benevolence. At times our thoughts are controlled by our wish list. Other times we are reminded that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Christmas giving is often directed by traditions. For example, in our family, there has been a tradition to give our children three gifts - toy, clothes, and a book - to remind us of the gifts of the Magi. As the children became adults, the toy became something for the house or money. The grandchildren became recipients of the types of gifts previously designated for the children.
One of the most special gifts I received in recent years was a truck, an adult toy. That was a real surprise. I don’t remember what my other two gifts were that year. but they were surely fairly inexpensive, and it was the thought behind the gift that was great.
What about abstract gifts? Gifts that are intangible, not material or physical, even spiritual? Things that money can’t buy? How about a smile or a friendly greeting? A word of encouragement? Time? A little bit of yourself?
The words from a Christmas song come to mind, “...say ‘hello’ to friends you know and everyone you meet.” You truly might help, even a stranger, to have a “Holly, Jolly Christmas.”
Family is, of course, one of our most precious gifts, and we thank God daily for blessing us with family. But there are also the blessings of old friends, such as those we always meet on the streets of Bristol when downtown has “open house.” And there are those new friends that we meet, such as Aaron and Mackina who were recently married in our living room. They were planning to get married at South Holston Dam, but it was pouring rain. So we had the joy of visiting in our home for nearly an hour before I pronounced them husband and wife and Sammie signed the license as witness. What a precious young couple.
Then there’s Dan and Carla at The Old Chickahominy House, in Williamsburg, with whom we have experienced the gift of a lasting friendship over the years. They came to visit us in Bristol...and we don’t even have a cool restaurant like they do.
And how about the couple in Walnut Creek, Ohio? Aiden and Mary own an antique store that we visit every time we are in Ohio Amish Country. We love their store, and, after chatting with them over a purchase, we invited them to come see us in Tennessee. “You never know,” said Aiden, and we jotted down our phone number, just in case.
I could go on and on, but let me share one more gift of a “chance” meeting gift from God. We failed to get their name, but we met a young couple at breakfast in the Berlin Grande Hotel. Their home is across the state from Berlin, Ohio. We talked about our family, and they shared pictures of their five little ones. We talked about church and learned that he is pastor at an Old German Baptist Brethren Church. That was a new one for me.
As we talked, we agreed that the name of our church is not the most important thing, but what really counts is the gift that God presented to us in Bethlehem’s manger. As we said our “farewells” at the end of our visit, Sammie said, “Maybe we’ll see you again some day.” To which the wife replied. “At least we can see each other in Heaven.”
I am so thankful for the gift of human relationships, but I am eternally more grateful for the gift of Jesus that makes a relationship with God possible. That relationship leads to “...we can see each other in Heaven some day.”
--Steve Playl may be reached by email. firstname.lastname@example.org.
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