The Best Gift
BY BETH BOLTHOUSE, LEAD TEAM MEMBER AND SMALL GROUP LEADER, FRONT PORCH CHURCH
I remember as a little girl how exciting it was to anticipate Christmas morning.
Every Christmas Eve, my sister, brother and I would put together a plate of Krullers (also known as powdered donuts) with a glass of milk and set it out for Santa. My mom told us that was his favorite snack, and we found it so curious that it was also our dad’s favorite snack (never putting it together that Santa and dad were one and the same). Then we would go to bed earlier than normal to ensure that Santa could arrive unseen and be able to leave presents for Christmas morning.
The anticipation made it difficult to fall asleep but once we did, we slept soundly and awakened to the thrill of going downstairs to find overflowing stockings and presents of all sizes waiting for us. There we found a few things we had hoped for and a few things we hadn’t, but the joy of finding these surprises brought a lot of happiness.
Those days are long gone now. The older I’ve grown, Christmas has become less about getting and more about giving, less about decoration and more about caring, less about Santa and more about sensitivity to the needs of others. So with that in mind, here are a few thoughts about what may be the best, most important and meaningful gift we could ever give to others and even to ourselves: the Gift of Love.
The Gift of Love. There are many books and songs written about love, telling us it makes the world go ‘round, all you need is love, and love is a many splendored thing. Poets have waxed eloquent about love: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways” (Elizabeth Barrett Browning); “Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away” (King Solomon, Song of Songs 8:7). The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13 that of all the gifts we treasure and desire, “the greatest of these is love.” Love began with God and has continued on ever since.
It might even be said that love is more important than anything else because God commanded us to love Him and love others – the two most important truths to live by (Matthew 22:36-40). John, one of Christ’s disciples, wrote a meaningful exposé about love encouraging us, “let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God” (1 John 4:7). Throughout both the Old and New Testaments we read over and over that the primary thing God wants from His children is love (Deuteronomy 10:12; Micah 6:8; Colossians 2:2 to name a few). The reality is, without love we are nothing (Corinthians 13:2).
Loving God and loving others doesn’t mean that we are not to love ourselves in healthy ways. God created you and me with worth and value, and He wants us to be loving toward ourselves, too. One of my favorite metaphors was shared years ago by a youth leader who worked with teen girls in the area of self-esteem. She used three types of cups to demonstrate the importance God places on us and to emphasize how we are to love ourselves.
The first cup was a simple Styrofoam cup – disposable, crushable. There are times we treat ourselves like that – throw-away and worth nothing but to be used and tossed aside. This is not love, and yet when we have been treated like this by others it tends to be how we treat ourselves, too.
The second cup was a coffee mug – sturdy, enjoyed, but just an everyday cup that we put in the dishwasher or leave in our car or at work. It’s important to us but mostly it’s unforgettable and replaceable – just like we allow ourselves to be treated by others who don’t value us.
The third cup was an antique tea cup – priceless, cherished, and kept safely protected so as not to be damaged. This is how we are to love ourselves – as a treasure created for intention and meaning for life and love.
Unfortunately, the messages we receive throughout our life may not always communicate value and treasure back to us. We can find ourselves struggling with feeling loved and worthy of love, and this can turn the love we have toward others into codependency, and that just takes us into brokenness and woundedness – not into love.
The thing about God is, He not only created love, He is love. And He treasures you because He loves you with all His heart. You are not disposable to Him; you are not forgettable or everyday; you are a priceless, valuable person He cherishes and loves. The more we connect with this reality, the more we will open our hearts up to receiving love and being able to give love to others.
This Christmas season we get to celebrate the most expensive, costly gift of all – the birth of Jesus, who came to earth as a baby so God would be able to walk in our skin and experience what it is to be human (Hebrews 2:14-15). He loved you and me so much that He chose to die to free us from our sin, and then rose from the dead to conquer the power of sin and death forever. That is incredible love that is hard to wrap our minds around, and yet He expressed His love like no one ever has or ever will.
The best gift – Love – is one that people everywhere search for, long for, and need. Expressions of love may be found in a stocking or under a tree; it may be found in the smile of a stranger or the kindness of a friend. The most significant love, God’s love, is available to anyone, and requires nothing in exchange because Jesus already purchased it for us through his death and resurrection. During these holidays, let’s find ways to show God’s love to others, reminding them that they are not throw away, or everyday, but priceless treasures created by God to be valued and loved!
Join us at Front Porch Church every Saturday at 5:00 p.m. for our weekly gathering – great music, good teaching, coffee and pastries! Embrace Books can make your Christmas shopping easier — open houses are December 9 and 23 from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.! Check our Facebook page frequently for updates and information about our services and podcasts.
Front Porch Church is located at 1050 W. Southern Ave. in Muskegon. Gatherings are Saturday evenings at 5:00 p.m. and all are welcome. Visit them online at FrontPorchChurch.com and on Facebook at facebook.com/FrontPorchChurch. Weekly teachings can be listened to at FrontporchChurch.com/teachings/.