Jesus said, “When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
I always carry a notebook with me in which I make lists. Lists of things to do today, tomorrow, a shopping list, etc. A few days ago, I was waiting and opened the notebook to a new page and began a Christmas present list. I wrote down the people I think Rick and I should give a present to and what we might give them.
Since then, I’ve thought of a few more people that could go on the list. At a store this week, I decided to pick up a few presents. I found a small gift to send to my aunt in Arizona, hoping she would receive and enjoy it before Christmas. I picked up some things for the grandkids. I was shopping very hodge-podge, not at all planned; a terribly inefficient way to Christmas shopping.
One of the main reasons why I was even shopping was because of a conversation a couple hours earlier. The woman in charge of the local food pantry shared how a woman had been in that afternoon. She had just lost her job and was questioning about Christmas presents for her two daughters. While there are some toys at the food pantry for such situations, the children’s ages did not match with what was available.
I quickly told the food pantry woman I would take care of it. Rick and I do not buy presents for each other. Instead, we purchase presents for a family in need. I hadn’t determined a family for this year. Suddenly, there was a need. I could fulfill it. I knew only the children’s ages and genders. I wondered around the store trying to be inspired. Seeing other items, I began to toss items into the cart for people on my gift-giving list. As I picked up items these people, I questioned why I was purchasing gifts. Yes, I should get presents for our grandchildren. But what about the other people? I doubt they “need” anything. Am I buying just to buy? How does this fit in with what I teach and share with others?
Christmas presents are a challenge for me. I want to acknowledge people who are meaningful to me. But I struggle with what is appropriate, necessary and meaningful. It is seldom black and white for me.
When I got home, I saw this photo on Facebook, shared by one of my friends. I think the pictures speak volumes, especially how one photo is black and white and one is in color. Looking at the photos, I almost wanted to return everything I had just purchased, minus the food pantry family. The other presents I had bought are not necessities.
I will continue to struggle with this as Christmas approaches. I will do more Christmas shopping. I pray that I will carefully look over my list. Who might appreciate a gift to an organization that will help those who do not have necessities more than an item I picked out, not knowing quite what else to give? Let’s remember whose birthday it is and what present we’re giving him this Christmas. Because when we do something for the least of our brothers and sisters, it is as if we have given a gift directly to the King.
Almighty God, the magi brought gifts to Baby Jesus the first Christmas. We continue this tradition today. Help us to creatively think about who and what we give for presents this year. Guide us to think with larger thoughts about gift-giving this Christmas. Amen.
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