Gifts That Matter Part 1 - Girlfriends in God - December 13, 2011


December 13, 2011
Gifts That Matter Part 1
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth
If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving—large or small—it will be used to measure what is given back to you (Luke 6:38, NLT). 

Friend to Friend
The world would like us to believe that the success of Christmas depends upon how much we spend, how many presents we give or how many presents we receive. Christmas is about giving, but price tags do not determine the success of our giving. Giving is not dependent on the condition of our checkbooks. Giving is dependent on the condition of our hearts. I am so glad! Like you, we have to plan carefully what we buy and how much we spend on each gift. As a result, we have discovered some creative ways to give gifts from the heart, meaningful gifts that cost very little.

A homemade gift
In 1 Corinthians 4:12, Paul teaches that we should “work hard with our own hands.” This principle can easily be applied to Christmas gifts. Giving a homemade gift represents time, thought and is a part of you. When our children were small, one of our favorite Christmas traditions was to create and deliver a homemade hot chocolate mix in decorated mason jars to our neighbors. We placed the jars just to the left of each neighbor’s front door, rang their doorbell and ran like crazy! I am not certain who enjoyed it the most … our neighbors or us. But every year, we were amazed by how much the neighbors enjoyed our homemade gift. (By the way, the recipe posted on my website if you want to carry on this tradition.)

A possession gift
In Matthew 6:40, Jesus spoke about giving away the shirt and coat on our backs. Giving something we already own can be a wonderful Christmas gift if it is something of special value to us. In other words, it is not the idea of getting rid of junk but sharing our treasure. Do not ask the question, “What can I buy for Sally?” Ask the question, “What do I have that would mean a lot to Sally?” My husband is a pastor. During a message, Dan mentioned he collects old Bibles. The next Christmas, one of our church members gave him a family Bible that had been passed down through several generations of family members. It was and still is one of Dan’s most precious possessions. 

A gift of time
Time is a valuable gift, a precious commodity. The apostle Paul wrote, “Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:15-16, NIV). When we give someone 30 minutes of our time, we are giving them 30 minutes of our lives. While Dan was in seminary, we rarely had a spare minute or extra dollar between school, jobs and babies. A close friend who knew our schedule gave us a precious gift of time. “I have no money but wanted to give you a gift for Christmas,” he said, handing us a card. Inside was a coupon for free childcare one afternoon each week for the spring semester. That was over twenty-five years ago, and I still remember that wonderful gift of time.

A gift of prayer
The greatest gift we can give someone is the commitment to pray for them consistently. James writes, “Pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results” (James 5:16, NLT).  Following our traditional Christmas Eve service, an elderly lady approached Dan and said, “I don’t have anything to give you, Pastor. But I want you to know that I will pray for you, Mary and the kids every morning this year at 6:00 a.m.” And she did! What a priceless gift! Every time she saw us, this sweet lady asked what we needed and how she should pray. Only Heaven knows all that God accomplished in our lives through the prayers of this godly woman. 

A gift of encouragement
As the writer of Proverbs says, encouragement is a powerful gift. “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up” (Proverbs 12:25, NIV). We assume the people in our lives know how much they mean to us. They rarely do. This Christmas, write a letter to someone you love and appreciate, telling them how important they are to you. Be specific. A written note or letter requires time, careful thought and allows that person to read your words of encouragement again and again. One of my most prized possessions is a blue wooden box our son built and gave me one year for Christmas. In that box, I store notes, letters and cards of affirmation so on my “blue” days, I can pull out a dose of encouragement. One year, I wrote a letter of encouragement to my husband and to each child. The letters were placed in decorated envelopes, tied to branches of the Christmas tree and opened first on Christmas morning. 

On Thursday, I will share with you six more gifts from the heart. I pray this holiday season will lead us once again to the manger, where we will worship the Christ child and experience a Christmas holiday filled with love, peace and joy.

Let’s Pray
Father, teach us to celebrate Your birth in the way we give to others. Lord, I don’t want to get caught up in buying gifts that make me feel good. I want to give gifts that honor God, encourage others and point them to the real reason for this season – Jesus. Be glorified in every gift I give this year.
In Jesus’ name,

Now It’s Your Turn
Read and memorize Luke 6:38 that says, “If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving—large or small—it will be used to measure what is given back to you.

What does this verse tell you about how important it is to give?
What does this verse say about the importance of the attitude behind the gift?
What does God promise to do in our lives when we give generously?

More from the Girlfriends
No matter what your circumstances may be, you can celebrate the Christmas holidays because God is with you, girlfriend.

Don’t miss the biggest sale of the year going on in Mary’s online store December 1 – 15! Great savings on Books, CDs, MP3 downloads, E-Bible Studies and Video downloads. Every order is also an automatic entry to win one of three copies of Girlfriends in God’s first devotional book, Trusting God. Winners will be announced on December 15.

If you are like me, you are easily swept into the rush of Christmas preparation. I love it – mostly. But I also want to remember that at the very heart of Christmas is Emanuel, God with us. Join me this Christmas season in a quest to celebrate Him and His birth as never before. Need a friend? Connect with Mary on Facebook - or through email.

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Originally published Tuesday, 13 December 2011.