The Gift That Keeps on Giving
The Gift That Keeps on Giving
Winter is coming and with it we usher in a new holiday season. The holiday season is dynamic and constantly changing. No sooner than one holiday ends, another begins. Christmas displays can be seen in stores shortly after Labor Day, and television commercials are aired as early as mid-October. Unfortunately, the effect of these social shifts has impacted how Christmas is perceived. “According to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, the things people dislike about Christmas are its commercialization, the amount of money spent, and holiday shopping and crowds.”
Holidays allow us to show our care and affection towards others through gift-giving. However, despite our best efforts to select the perfect gift, we often miss the mark. December 25th is Christmas, our national gift-giving day, but many of these gifts will be returned or exchanged. In 2016, 54 percent of all holiday gifts were exchanged or altered; the cost associated with returned gifts rose to $90 billion in 2017. Gift returns are so prevalent that January 5th, the date most gifts are returned, has been termed National Returns Day by UPS. Perhaps the reason that so many gift returns occur is because the focus has shifted the meaning of the holiday. It appears that attention shifts from God and the people closest to us to the gift.
Gifts can have either short-term or long-term effects. Short-term gifts, like flowers, generally have a short lifespan and provide the sense of pleasure and enjoyment for a brief period. Long-term gifts are meant to be enjoyed repeatedly. If you think about the gifts that you cherish most, they are probably things like photographs, books, movies or recordings. The use of these gifts continually invokes the feelings people get when they received the present. Many well-known commercials have used the slogan “the gift that keeps on giving” to tap into these emotions. Yet, the greatest gift of all, and perhaps the one most taken for granted, is the gift presented to His children by a loving God. Ephesians 2:8 reminds us:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
Leadership, in whatever environment it is exercised, calls us to extend grace to others that may have hurt us, fallen short of their potential or simply made mistakes. Grace moves us beyond our own understanding. It requires courage, not condemnation. Grace is more than forgiveness; it is transformational and uplifting. Author Anne Lamont states:
“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”
It is great to talk about grace, and we should, but it is so much more powerful to see it in action. It can stop a mob from stoning a woman, and without condemnation breathe new life into her (John 8:11). You can see it in the face of the child filled with fear because they wrecked the car but is freed by hearing, “the important thing is, you’re okay.” You can sense it in the presence of the employee expecting to be fired because of their mistake but instead hears, “it’s okay, you learned a valuable lesson.” You feel it in the embrace of a Father whose love washes away sin.
A few weeks ago, while watching a college football game, I had the opportunity to witness it in action. It was a close scoring game when the kicker lined up to for a potentially winning field goal. The young man had missed several kicks over the past few games and he was feeling the pressure of failure. He kicked the ball but could immediately tell that the kick sailed wide right. He headed toward the sideline with his head hanging low. He looked up to see the coach, perhaps expecting to hear the worst. The coach reached out for him and hugged him tightly. The only words the kicker would hear were “I love you.” The coach wasn’t just speaking words; he was speaking life. He was lifting the young man up, removing the guilt and disappointment. The coach, a few minutes later, not hesitating sent the kicker for an even longer field goal; you guessed it, right down the middle, Game over! Such is the power of grace.
During the holidays what we value most are friends and family. What a great opportunity for grace. It may be that we need to seek grace for ourselves, or we can extend it to someone else. The truth is none of us are perfect, so there are plenty of opportunities to seek and give grace. Grace doesn’t need to be wrapped in a bow, dressed up or put under a tree. The only thing it requires that we give it and mean it. We may just help lift a burden that we, or someone else, carries and hopefully are reminded of this precious gift.
Grace, truly the only gift that keeps on giving.
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