There is much talk of 'gifts' in these days that lead up to the Christmas holiday. I will confess that most of that talk causes me a great deal of stress. I go to the local shops or mall (S.T.R.E.S.S. in that, alone) and I look for the 'perfect' thing to give to my loved ones; something they will value and maybe keep for awhile; something that says I love them. That is a lot to expect of a 'thing' that can be wrapped in paper and shipped. I rarely shop. I do not like to shop. In fact, when I went shopping both of the past two days, I ended up sitting in my car, frustrated and stressed, with tears running down my face, both times.
You see, the people I shop for really do not need 'things' and they all already know that I love them to the ends of the earth and back. So rushing about in sub-freezing weather, discovering that the 'thing' my grandchild has said he/she wants is either just sold out or is more than I am willing to pay, or is something that I know will be at the bottom of the toy chest, forgotten in just days... all that makes this 'gifting' tradition seem quite questionable to me.
My greatest joy on these shopping excursions is seeing the Salvation Army bellringers, always smiling, even though it is only 12 degrees outside. And they are always delighted with the few dollars I put in each of their buckets, and I know those small gifts are appreciated, and will be useful.
As for myself, I am not a person who is in need of anything, so it often stresses me to think someone is spending money on some 'thing' for me, as well. (Though I have received some lovely, thoughtful gifts from loved ones, which I still use and enjoy.)
But lately all this has, though stressful, not been what I have been thinking of in the 'gift' arena. As a Christian, I have heard much about 'gifts' and 'spiritual gifts', and we are usually considering the talents we have been given to use for God and for His work here when we speak of or study about these things. But, again, this is not where my focus on gifts has gone.
I have been spending a lot of time, and have been using talents far beyond my own meager ones, in the music and praise portions of our church worship. I help lead the singing in our early worship service and I have begun 'directing' a small choir of people who, like myself, love to sing praises. This has been a gift to me, a surprise gift, at that, as I certainly never would have expected to be doing these things. Yes, I put that correctly; it has not been a gift FROM me, it has been a gift, a beautifully wrapped up present, TO me. When I am stressed, from shopping or thinking about shopping, or cleaning (or thinking about cleaning) or decorating (or... well, you get it), I go grab my guitar and belt out a carol or two, or just practice chords or even scales. The gift that God has given me in my love of music and my attempts to create it is immeasurable. There is no way that what I give back can be considered a gift in return to Him.
My favorite song this week (which I'm sure my husband and pets are sick of) is Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer's "Go Tell the Fox." I have loved that song for years, and have hoped to find chords for it someday. (You can hear a bit of it here.) I have finally reached a level of competence that I could sit down (in a high stress avoidance time) and figure out the chords myself! I love this carol so much, that I am sure it is one of the reasons I included a fox in the Nativity tapestries. That song, and that fox; both lovely gifts to me.
So.... in this time of stress, when I wonder why we do the things we are doing, supposedly to celebrate Christ's coming into our world, I have been thinking of those Gifts and Presents (also spelled 'presence') that I have been given. Right now, music is the gift - almost a toy, really- I'm playing with and enjoying most of all. But I look forward to a quieter time, when I can again go into the studio, where many lovely gifts await for me to use.
I am a lucky person. I have a Father who loves me to the ends of the universe and back. He gives me such wondrous presents! And some of them are truly unexpected surprises. I can hardly wait for what He will give me next!