Well, did you get the gift that you had been hoping for?
We have all spent a Christmas as Ralph from Christmas Story, hoping for our own version of the “official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time.”
If holiday sales are any indicator, people definitely made an effort to get the gift you wanted. The National Retail Federation estimates that 2017 holiday sales will rise 4.9% this year, to over 690B. That's a lot of money being spent to make sure you are pleased with your gift.
Of course, there are those gifts that are spot on. The gift that is exactly what you wanted (because it's precisely what you asked for), or it's from a loved one and carries a sentimentality that gives it a value that cannot be expressed in dollars.
But, if you have been to the stores since Tuesday, then you know two things. First, a lot of people did not get what they wanted. Second, you are probably one of them.
In other words, when the long-awaited package finally came, we opened it to disappointingly discover that instead of receiving an official Josiah Bartlett Presidential Library sweatshirt, we had "been enrolled in a one-year membership in the jelly of the month club:”
According to a recent study, 53% were disappointed with a gift they received this year. Further, we spent almost 16B on unwanted Christmas gifts. Many of those gifts are returned, some are "re-gifted," and about 5% of them are just tossed in the garbage.
How can this be? Surprisingly, the same study finds that bosses only miss the mark 5% of the time, but our friends do so almost 25% of the time (that means we fall on both sides of the numbers – giving and receiving). Yikes!
We may think we know what people want, but we are often wrong. Another factor is that people change their minds. It may have looked good in the store, but not so good on. Not only that that, even the best gifts have a shelf life. What is in style this year is either not to be seen in public next year, or it's been upgraded so many times it’s irrelevant.
As Ralphie's dad told him on Christmas morning (if you haven't seen A Christmas Story, I can't help you at this point), "Hey. That's funny. What's that over there behind the desk? Go check it out. Go on."
All this effort to give to give and receive a gift that has real value and lasting impact leads one to consider the fact that every gift we give or receive will fall short of the gift that we have been given in Christ – the gift of the gospel!
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have.” John 4:10
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” Romans 6:23
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” Ephesians 2:8
These are just a few of the many verses that speak of Jesus as God’s gift to us. One of the reasons I think there are so many verses on this topic is that we are so easily drawn away from this truth by our own perception of our needs and the world's assessment of how to meet them.
In the gospel, we are forgiven of our sins, loved by a Father not based on our performance, adopted as sons and daughters, and promised a dwelling place with God forever.
And that, as Cousin Eddie might say, “Is the gift that keeps on giving all year long!’