Monday, December 8, 2008

Three Gifts

This month I am writing about the beauty of true joy in the holiday season. I reflected last week on the need to clean out some old and unhealthy actions and attitudes which seem to cloud our joy. This week I want us to examine the beauty of giving and the joy that it brings. Now hold on – I know you may be thinking to yourself, “But I don’t have any money to give good gifts this year.” Well I have good news for you – the three things I want to talk about today won’t cost you anything monetarily, yet don’t underestimate the value of these gifts! If you give them to the people around you, you will find that these gifts are truly priceless and bring much joy to life.

Love and Compassion: A true, pure love is patient and kind. It bears with the other person and does not get easily angered. So let’s be honest, true love is not easy especially toward those who are slightly annoying and difficult. Granted it is easy to love those who love us and those who are easy to get along with, but the Bible encourages us to love our enemies. I’m thinking that includes a lot of difficult people as well. When we choose to reach out in love toward others, a joy wells up inside of us. Hatred and unkindness drain us of our strength and rob us of our joy. If you want to experience a deep and abiding joy, ask the Lord to help you love everyone around you, not just the easy-to-love people. Reach out to people beyond your comfort zone and touch them with your compassion, grace and kindness.

Encouragement: The word “encourage” means to give strength. The root word “cour” comes from the Latin word “heart.” When we use our words to honestly encourage those around us, we are giving strength to their heart. Yet so often our critical spirit emerges, and we drain people of their strength by constantly nit-picking and correcting. Let’s choose to look for opportunities to strengthen others through our words throughout this holiday season. Use phrases like, “I’m so thankful for the way…”
“I was so blessed when you…” “You are so good at…” Give the gift of encouragement and watch the joy begin to rise up inside of your heart.

Forgiveness: Who do you need to give the gift of forgiveness to this year? Is there something you have been holding over another person? A bad memory? A grudge? A disappointment? A deep hurt? Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it brings great joy (to you as well as the forgiven one – maybe more so to you). Forgiveness doesn’t mean you are becoming a doormat and inviting people to walk all over you. It is releasing the right to hold something over another person. Has the Lord forgiven you of all your sins? If you are a follower of Christ, He certainly has! Then we must recognize we have no right to hold an offense over someone else. Ask the Lord to help you forgive those whom you feel as though you just can’t forgive. Then stop playing the “I am hurt” tape over and over in your brain. Release the anger, let go of the bitterness and experience His joy.

Remind your kids about the joy which comes from these three gifts. I encourage you to decorate three boxes and share with your kids (one each night) about the importance of these gifts. Talk about practical ways to give these gifts to their family and friends throughout December and all year long. The wise men brought three gifts to Jesus, and certainly we would be wise to bring these three gifts to others throughout our life. They are not easy gifts to give, but they remind us of our humble need for God’s grace, power and strength each day.

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