Growing up I did not always see my grandparents on my Dad’s side during the holidays. Grandmother and Papa Hill always made sure packages were wrapped and mailed to us in time to be under the tree for Christmas Eve. Most years we got our Christmas pajamas from them.
Yet, there was this one Christmas where my grandmother decided she would send me a night-gown instead of pajamas. After going out for a Christmas Eve services, dinner and visiting with friends, my brother and I rushed home anticipating opening that first gift on Christmas Eve. Of course, Dad had to draw out the anticipation by acting like he could not find the packages and then magically making them appear.
As soon as these packages landed in our laps the paper was off in the blink of an eye and the box lids flew opened. Instead of pulling out the fuzzy footie pajamas like I had always gotten, I began to pull out this night-gown. As I began to pull the gown out of the box the more material would come out. As the night-gown began to unfold and unfold, the entire room become quiet. I know the looks on the faces of my family had to be inquisitive. If you have every seen the movie, Christmas Story, I am sure my family’s faces looked about how the faces looked when the bunny rabbit pj’s were opened and the leg lamp came out of the box.
In my package that had been wrapped and shipped with love and care came out a nightgown with the size in the tag that said; “one size fits all.” As I began to unfold and unfold this nightgown, we realized that the entire family could get into this gown. (You see, I am a petite size gal. When God was giving out height, I overslept and missed getting in that line that day.) The more the gown unfolded the more everyone was scrambling for words. Suddenly out of my dad’s mouth came; “well, Peanut, looks like you have a new tent for camping.” At that moment the entire family was laughing until we were crying. Today, all I have to say is “one size fits all” and laughter will burst out in my family. I had received a gift that I was not going to be able to use.
After opening Santa and eating Christmas breakfast the next morning, Dad kept with tradition and called Papa and Grandmother Hill to wish them a Merry Christmas. My brother and I would also get on the phone to tell our grandparents thank-you for their love, thoughtfulness and the presents. This is one year I had to show gratitude for my gift while all the while my brother was in the background making a fort with the kitchen chairs and this ” one size fits all gown.”
I share this story because it is becoming the gift giving season. People work hard and shop hard to find that perfect gift to give their loved ones. These gifts are given or should be given out of the abundance of love from the heart. The gifts also show that the person cares enough to think about the receiver.
Yesterday, in my post, Extravagant Giving I shared how we need to be extravagant in our giving by giving others God’s grace. I also shared how God gave to us extravagantly so that we can have eternal life. We give to others out of the abundance of our hearts.
There are times when someone has received a gift and I have heard comments being made to the giver like the following:
“What were you thinking? I don’t need this!”
“I can’t believe you spent (insert $ amount) on this.”
“I don’t like the color.”
“This is NOT what I wanted!”
I am sure in my lifetime of forty-nine years I have made an off comment like these at some point and time. However, as I have gotten older and hopefully a little more mature I have come to realize these comments are not needed and should be said. Just as the giver has given out of the abundance of their hearts, we should receive out of the abundance of our hearts. When we are negative about a gift that has been given we are stealing the joy of the giver even if they are not present when the comment is made. Instead, we should be grateful that the person took time out of their schedule to do something for us. We also should be thankful that they took time out to think of us.
The gift is a material thing but it is also language of “I love you” and “I was thinking of you today.” Thus, our response should be that of gratitude. In other words, be an extravagant receiver. Now, what you do with the gift after the person leaves is up to you. Hold on to the gift in case you should some time need it. If the opportunity presents itself where someone else can actually use the gift, give it to them. The gift is now yours and up to you to do what you want with the gift.
As I said earlier, God gave to us extravagantly because he loves us so much and wants us with him for eternity. God gave us his Son and it is up to us to accept his Son into our hearts. We need to be an extravagant receiver of God’s gift. It is up to us as individuals of what to do with his gift. It is my hopes that we share his gift with others. We pass it on to someone else who needs Jesus in their lives.
Not only did God give us his Son but he gives us a gift everyday. As the old cliché says, every day is a present and it is up to us as to what we do with it”. It is up to us to make the most of every day God wakes us up. Each day God has blessings for us. It is up to us to be aware of his presence at all times to receive these blessings. When we receive these blessings it is important to acknowledge them and say thank you just as I acknowledged to my grandparents that I received their gift and said thank you.
This year as you receive Christmas cards and gifts be sure to be an extravagant receiver. Tell the giver thank you. Remember, the person took time out to think of you. They are giving out of the abundance of their heart. May our response to the gifts we receive and especially to the gift God gave us be the following:
“Thank you for thinking of me.”
“You are such a generous giver.”
“ I didn’t realized I needed this blessing today but YOU did.”
I love the reminder we are given in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 about having a grateful heart;
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in ALL circumstances, for this is God’s will
for you in Jesus Christ.
It is when we are an extravagant receiver that we will see the giver in a whole new perspective. We begin to see and experience joy in all things and we will become more open to see beyond the material gift and see the abundance of love the person has in their heart. May our receiving be a blessing to others this year as their giving is a blessing to us.
Until next time, give thanks for ALL things!
- Extravagant Giving (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
- The Christmas Present Pile-Up: How Much Do You Buy? (motherhoodismagic.com)
- The gift of giving (fechaplaincy.wordpress.com)
When you hear the word, extravagant what comes to mind? Maybe it is the latest sports car that is on the front of Car and Driver. Maybe it is that featured house in Southern Living and how it is decorated. For some of us it may be a vision of that tropical vacation on some remote Island.
Extravagant is defined and perceived in many ways. The picture of the Taj Mahal is an example of extravagance at its finest. Shah Jahan ordered it to be built as a dedication to his late wife whose tomb is set within the building. It was said he did this because he loved her so much. It was built in the seventh century and it took twenty-two years to build. As I googled information on the building, it is said to be known as the most perfect building in the world. This building stands all because of the love one person had for another. In other words, it can be seen and perceived as extravagant giving.
Extravagant giving. What does it really mean? Does it mean we give the biggest and most expensive gift to someone? Does it mean we try to build something big like the Taj Mahal to show our love to someone? My personal answer to these questions is; no. Extravagant giving does not mean giving the biggest and most expensive gift or building something big just to impress or to show our love to someone.
When I think of extravagant giving the story in Luke 7:36-50 comes to mind. Jesus is invited to dinner at a Pharisee’s home. Social graces were that Simon should wash the feet of Jesus and anoint Jesus’ head with oil. Yet, Simon had neglected to do this for Jesus as he entered the home. As Jesus enters the home, a woman enters the home. The scriptures describe her as a sinful woman. ”When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” This woman gave an extravagant gift and that was her overflowing love to Jesus for the forgiveness and grace he had shown.
Yes, the alabaster jars were considered to be extravagant in that time. The perfume she used was said to be a very expensive perfume. In a material sense she one would say she gave extravagantly and the Pharisees would agree. Yet, the most extravagant thing in her giving was giving of herself and her gratitude to Christ. She gave out of the abundance of her heart.
If there were time and enough space to type, we could go through the gospels and see other ways people gave extravagant gifts. The little boy with the fish and the loaves, the widow who gave the last cent she had, and the list goes on. No matter the story, the theme is the same. These people knew what it meant to give in extra-ordinary and extravagant ways. They gave from their hearts the very best they had without complaining. They gave out of love.
The Christmas Season is rapidly approaching. In a few weeks we will be celebrating Advent. Hanging of the Greens services will be taking place in churches. Preparations in homes will be made to get ready to celebrate Christmas with family and friends. It is a time of year where we celebrate the extravagant gift we have been given from God. We celebrate his Son, Jesus Christ.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his ONLY begotten son-so that we may have life eternal” (John 3:16 paraphrased). It is God’s extravagant giving that we have received mercy and grace. It is because of his extravagant giving that life doesn’t end when we leave this world but we continue to live on in our eternal home with our Father.
The Christmas Season is rapidly approaching. Commercials are running promoting the” have to have” product this year. People are making their lists for Santa and gathering shopping lists to shop for family and friends. The common statement you will hear this time of year is: “I don’t know what I am going to give_________(you fill in the person’s name) for Christmas.
How about this year you give not the “World’s Most Perfect Building.” In other words, it is not about the thing we give that shows our love but it is out of the over-flowing of love and gratitude from the grace that we have been given and shown. Maybe there is someone from whom we need to seek for forgiveness. Maybe there is someone who needs forgiveness extended to them.
Perhaps God has placed someone in our life who is longing to belong. They are searching for answers and we are the ones who can tell them about God’s extravagant gift, his Son, Jesus.
Yes, the Taj Mahal may be considered “The World’s Most Perfect Building” but there is no gift that is more perfect than the gift of grace that has been extended to us from the cross. May we give extravagantly this Christmas.
Questions for reflection:
Where have you experienced extravagant giving?
Is there a significant person who stands out or has shown you extravagant giving?
What are some things you can do this Christmas Season to demonstrate extravagant giving and the true meaning of Christmas?
As you go through the days ahead, keep your eyes, ears and heart opened to where God leads you to share his extravagant love and grace.
Unplugging from blogging and tweeting for the rest of the year.
I will be back next year with many more new thoughts to share.
May you and yours have a blessed Christmas Season
Many blessings to you and yours in 2013!
- Countdown: My Top Ten Childhood Christmas Memories (darsba.wordpress.com)
Since we are now in the midst of the Christmas Season, we know that the New Year is not too far away. It is on New Year’s Eve when we make those resolutions that we soon break within the first few weeks of January. Instead of making New Year’s resolutions this year, why not make Christmas resolutions?
The Advent Season is a time of preparing our hearts and minds for the Christ-child. As we make these preparations, why don’t we take time out and evaluate our walk with Christ. In this evaluation process, think about our daily walk with Christ. Where can we improve in the upcoming year? Think about our witness to a non-believing world. Are we a true witness for Christ? How do our priorities in life measure up? Do we put God first in ALL that we do?
On Christmas Eve, we will have made our evaluations/resolutions. On this particular night we will be celebrating the birth of the Christ-child. As with any celebration, gifts are brought and given to the honoree. This year, let’s place these changes that we want to make for the new year as our gifts to the Christ child. Then, allow the Christ-child to lead us through the new year.
- Advent hearts (murmursofmyheart.wordpress.com)
- Celebrating Advent With Kids – New for 2012 (godspace.wordpress.com)
- Christmas gifts (irenefrances.wordpress.com)
- A Celtic Liturgy for Week 2 of Advent by John Birch (godspace.wordpress.com)
- The Season of Advent (preachingthenewlectionary.com)
- Have you heard the 10 commandments of Christmas? (safaritothesoul.wordpress.com)
For us Southern Belles, not only is getting the tree and fireplace mantle in perfect shape but getting the dinning room table is at the top of list in what absolutely has to be done at Christmas. For me, candles are essential when setting the table not only at Christmas but year round. Having candles on the table holds meaning for me.
My grandfather on my dad’s side was a retired Army Colonel. When we visited my grandparents’ home, Mom would always make sure we were brushed up on our manners especially before going to the dinner table. Dinner at Papa Hill’s house was an event every night. The good china and silver were used. And, there were always candles on the table that were lit before we came to the table. No one sat down until Papa Hill took his seat at the head of the dinner table As a teen I would roll my eyes and think; “why can’t we just use the everyday dishes?” I would think this because I knew I would be the one helping after dinner hand washing all the china and silver and putting it all away.
Over the years in my adulthood, I have reminisced on those dinner affairs and their true meaning. For Papa, dinner with his family was special to him. He cherished having his family around the table for not only a meal but for a visit. Many a story and tale were shared around the table as we savored the pot roast, mashed potatoes green beans and apple pie. Grandmother had so lovingly prepared. Along with no one sitting until Papa sat, no one got up until they were properly excused by an adult at the table.
As I reminisce about dinner with Papa and once I had been properly excused from the table, I also remember being in the kitchen with Grandmother up to my elbows in suds helping her wash the china and silver. It was those moments in the kitchen where Grandmother would not say a lot but here and there she would gently and lovingly smile and give you a little wink. She was a quiet lady with little to say but her smiles and winks said it all. You knew all was right in the world.
One evening in May, 2002 I stood by my Grandfather’s bedside just a little before mid night. Jim and I had volunteered to take the night shift of staying up with him at the hospital. From the looks of things, we had a pretty good idea that Jim and I would not be there all night. Late in the night, Jim sat by Papa’s side checking vitals until Jim noticed Papa’s breaths were getting further apart. As these breaths were getting shallow, I came over and took Papa by the hand. While holding tight to his hand, I looked at him and thanked him for all the cherished memories he had given us around the table that was always beautifully set with linens and candles. Then, I said “Papa, the table is now set for you. God has the candles lit and He has your place ready for you to take your seat at His banquet table. ” A few seconds later, Papa joined Jesus at the great banquet table.
The table is set. It is Christmas. The candles, fine linens and china are on the table. A meal will be prepared and the candles will be lit where new memories will be made and old stories shared. As I light the candles, I will not only remember my loving grandparents who showed by example that we are all special but I will also be reminded that Christ is and has always been the center of our family.
How about you? Is your table set? If you haven’t already, add some candles to your table. Let your family know how special they are and remind them that Christ is the center of your home by lighting the candles. Sit around the table and make memories and share old stories. The teenagers may roll their eyes a little but let them roll. One day, they will be thankful that they have such warm memories.
This post is dedicated in loving memory of Col. Carl R. Hill, Sr and Virginia Louise Hill
Where does the time go? If you are like me, you look at the calendar one day and think you have all the time in the world to get ready for Christmas. Then, it happens! You look at the calendar and realize Christmas is only three weeks away! Suddenly, we are jumping on that treadmill trying to get the house, the gifts and food prepared for our families, Christmas parties and Christmas Day.
Preparations are necessary for any big event. Yet, in the hustle of the Christmas Season and festivities are we preparing our hearts for the reason for the season? Just as John the Baptist went out preparing the way for the Lord, we need to be preparing our hearts for the Christ child. Though we may already be Christians and have Christ in our hearts, it is our responsibility to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming again. We do this by sharing God’s grace and love with others who may not know Him.
Throughout the Christmas season I encourage you to stop and prepare the way as you make preparations for all the Christmas festivities on your calendar. Prepare the way so others may know Him.
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the Prophets.
Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.
The voice of one crying in the wilderness;
Prepare the way of the LORD;
Make His paths strait.
It is that time of year again where we have multiple lists that we are checking off. These lists include added items to the usual grocery list, baking list, gift list, party list and the lists go on. You cannot imagine having yet another list. Yet, I am going to give you a list to remember this Christmas Season.
Things To Remember:
We all have to just sit down and rest at some point and time.
Take a deep breath.
It is in those deep breaths we can relax and inhale the joy and love of God into our souls.
Look at all that is around you.
Give thanks to God for the daily gifts that surround you.
Remember to keep it simple in the gift giving.
The most cherished gifts are not the most expensive but the ones where thought and love were put into them.
After all, God’s gift to us happened in a simple place to simple couple but He came with a lot of love.
- Gifts of Christmas – God with Us (essentialthingdevotions.com)
- How Advent Can Be Much More Than “The Christmas Season” (glennpackiam.typepad.com)
“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob;a scepter will rise out of Israel.” Numbers 24:17
“I want to be the star!” was the response of my three-year old son when roles for the Christmas story was given out. His dad and I responded “the star?”,“why not a Wiseman or a Shepherd?”. “NO!”, “I want to be the star!” The time came for the Children’s Paget and Drew was front and center playing the role of “the star”.
On that first Christmas night, one star shone bright over Bethlehem. This star led wise men, shepherds and probably countless others to theChrist Child. This star announced the birth of God’s promise of peace, joy, love, and grace to the world. What a significant role the star played on that first Christmas night.
At age three, I don’t know if Drew had totally grasped the real significance of the Christmas star. However, since that Christmas Play years ago, Drew’s wanting to the be the “star” is an example of what we all should strive to be in our Christian walk. Today, we are the “star” that has been commissioned to lead others to Christ. As we go through the Advent Season, we need to ask ourselves how bright are we shinning for Christ. Are we leading someone to Christ through our brightness? The stage is set and as Christians we have been chosen to play the role of the “star”.
- Christmas Song Lyrics – O Little Town of Bethlehem (socyberty.com)
- The Story of David and Goliath (Israel vs. the World) (ptl2010.com)
- Frankenmuth (hundredpercentchanceofchange.wordpress.com)
- Poinsettia History (fineartamerica.com)
- Christmas Tree The Tradition of Christmas Trees (ourneverendingstories.com)