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When the Perfect Gift is Jesus

Buying Christmas gifts stresses me out. I have nightmares of being at a family gathering and realizing I forgot to get a present for someone. In reality, I have forgotten to buy a person a gift only once … or maybe twice if you count the time I left my nephew’s gift at home and he was the only one in the gift exchange without something to open. (I know. I am cringing right along with you). In any case, I stress not only over my organizational deficits but also about whether someone will like the gift I gave them. Do they have it already? Is it the right color? Will they know I thought of them, and will they feel loved and valued?

In light of my gift-giving anxieties, my distress was magnified around Christmas of 2012. My mom, age 57, had been with Hospice for nearly six months after a diagnosis of terminal breast cancer and congestive heart failure. I found myself wondering, should we get her anything for Christmas? What do you give a person who may be in the arms of Jesus at any moment and can’t take anything with her?

It was hard to go through the motions like everything was normal that year. My mom oversaw the Christmas decorating and kept us company while we wrapped gifts. She joked about watching her favorite television shows even though she wasn’t going to be around to see the season finales. She cried as she thought about the moments she would miss, and we all cried and said goodbye every night before bed because every morning we were uncertain if she would wake up that day. While it seemed like everyone else was counting down the days to Christmas, we were counting down to a day we dreaded and yet hoped for, knowing she would be free from pain and suffering.

The days leading up to Christmas Day became excruciating as the cancer attacked her brain and she spent more time confused than lucid. When Christmas morning arrived, nobody but my 3-year-old felt like celebrating. She had been asleep for several days, so we knew her time was near. We decided to leave her bedside to open presents. While my son excitedly tore the wrapping paper from the gifts his nana had chosen for him and his baby sister, she took her last breath.

My mother did not open any presents under the Christmas tree that year, but she had already received the most important gift of all when she opened her heart to Jesus several years prior. Through His mercy and grace, she received His gift of salvation, and when she took her last breath, she joined the best Christmas celebration imaginable.

As we approach Christmas this year, I am busy wrapping gifts and thinking about each person I love. As they unwrap presents, I hope they will be reminded of the gift that truly matters – the kind that came as a baby and died on the cross so that we could live forever with Him. None of us is guaranteed another year of opening gifts under the Christmas tree. We can’t take any of it with us when we die anyway, and nothing could compare to the spectacular provisions God has planned for us in eternity. There is no greater gift than the life He gives, and I am so grateful that gift means my mom and I will see each other again. What does His gift mean to you?


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