Please don’t hate me, but I’m one of those people who likes to get her Christmas shopping done early. Don’t think I’m trying to be virtuous, though—I just tend to be cranky in crowds and nobody wants to be around a Scrooge!
So, daily for a couple of weeks now, I’ve been regularly adding to and consulting a list of names of friends and family I want to give gifts to. As I think of possibilities, I write them next to the person’s name. When I actually buy the gift, I cross that entry off (with great satisfaction, I might add!)
Now in theory, we’d all say that the reason we exchange gifts is because we love our friends and family and want to show them that love in a tangible way, right? That’s certainly what I’d say. However, while I truly do love my friends and family, sometimes my annual gift-buying ritual feels more like a task to be completed than an act of genuine love.
The Lord brought all this to the surface for me Monday when I was reading a little devotional called God Calling (edited by A.J. Russell). In it the anonymous authors write that we should give to others spiritually before we give to them materially. “Give of your prayers, your time, yourselves, your love, your thought. Practice giving this first.” Then, and only then, they continue, should we venture to give material gifts.
Hmmm. I felt both the Lord’s conviction and invitation in those words. He reminded me that it’s not sacrifices and offerings that bring Him pleasure, but my love, my heart open to Him. He cares more about my friendship with Him than He does my “stuff.” Why should the people I want to share gifts with feel any different? So many of the material gifts I give get forgotten in closets, on shelves, or—gasp!—they may even be re-gifted! But my prayers, love, time, thoughts—those gifts deepen relationships. They are gifts that really last.
I looked over my gift list. There are names of people there that I willingly spend money on, but, I hate to admit, I’ve not spent much time praying for. So, that’s going to change this year. Now, my gift list has moved into my prayer corner where I talk to God each morning. As I add to and cross off that list, it will double as a prayer list so that I can also give the gift of prayer for all those people I care about. And when I think about it, that gift is more valuable than anything I can get them from the mall or Amazon!