Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:1 NIV).
An African boy listened carefully as his teacher explained why Christians give presents to each other on Christmas day. “The gift is an expression of our joy over the birth of Jesus and our friendship for each other,” she said.
When Christmas day came, the boy brought to the teacher a seashell of lustrous beauty. “Where did you ever find such a beautiful shell?” the teacher asked as she gently fingered the gift.
The youth told her that there was only one spot where such extraordinary shells could be found. When he named the place, a certain bay several miles away, the teacher was left speechless.
“Why…why, it’s gorgeous…wonderful, but you shouldn’t have gone all that way to get a gift for me.”
His eyes brightening, the boy answered, “Long walk part of gift.”
I just love that story. During this holiday season, I watch as people scurry about swiping those plastic cards through the credit card machines faster than a speeding bullet. And yet, God has already shown us that the most precious gifts cannot be bought or sold. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).
The magi also knew about the joy of giving. While they gave gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ child, they also gave another gift…a long walk. We don’t know how far the magi traveled, but we do know that it was a distance that took months, perhaps years. Their long walk was part of the gift.
I wonder how far we are willing to go to worship Jesus…to bring our gifts to him. I wonder how far out of the way we will go to praise him. Do we only give to Him when it is convenient or easy? Or do we give what He wants most – a portion of ourselves, our very lives.
I think the little African boy had the right idea. The real gift wasn’t the shell; it was the sacrifice he had to make to give it.
Dear God, thank You for the gift You gave us through Your Son, Jesus Christ. I pray that I will keep gift-giving in perspective this holiday season and give gifts from the heart rather than the pocketbook. Help me to see that a “long walk,” or a portion of myself, is the greatest gift of all.
In Jesus’ Name,
What do You Think?
Describe a time when someone’s sacrificial gift meant a lot to you?
Describe the feeling you had when you gave a portion of yourself, such as your time, to someone?
Try to imagine the teacher who received the shell. What thoughts do you think came to mind when she looked at it year after year? Do you think it was the shell itself, or the heart of the boy who gave it to her, that meant so much?
Now, imagine how God looks at our gifts we give to Him? Do you think He reflects on the gifts themselves or the heart of the child who gives it?
It is easy to get caught up in the pre-Christmas swirl of activity and lose focus on what’s important. If you would like ways to keep Jesus the focus of your holiday season, check out my book, Celebrating a Christ Centered Christmas. It’s packed with helpful ideas and inspiration, and would also make a great Christmas gift. This book is officially out of print and I only have a few more copies left