It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….” OK, who are we kiddiing? It has been looking a lot like Christmas since September. It is the time of year where we are in a frenzy of buying presents for our loved ones. And not just any present will do. Only diamond jewelry or a new car will apparently express your deep love for your significant other, at least if you believe the commercials you see. But the present that will evidence that you truly care for someone is not something that can be put in a box or wrapped up in shiny paper–it is YOU.
No, I am not suggesting that you hand yourself over to the intended gift recipient. What I am suggesting is that the gift that will mean the most is not something that is concrete or tangible. It is not something that can be physically held or conveyed. The best thing that you can give anyone–whether a romantic partner, an acquaintance or a complete stranger–is your time and attention.
One of my favorite sayings is “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift; that’s why they call it the present.” The hours in each day are a precious gift. They are limited in number, and once they are expended, they can never be recovered. We can choose to use some of our finite time each day as a present to others by giving them our presence.
Time is one of the things which we guard the most selfishly. We demand “me time.” We’d often rather give money to charitable endeavors than volunteer, i.,e., give our time. That choice indicates the value we place on the hours in our day. Accordingly, giving of this finite resource is more precious and meaningful than a boxed gift that we spy in a box store and simply throw in our shopping cart with only a few minutes (perhaps even seconds) of thought.
I am looking in the mirror as I suggest that giving of time to others is the best possible gift. The concept is easy to grasp, but putting it into practice is difficult. Mea culpa. I had several instances in the last 24 hours where I was called upon to give of my time. Doing so convinced me that being present for the person with whom I interacted was a present from me that had real meaning for the recipient.
I confess that early morning is my “me time.” I want my space, quiet, a cup of coffee and time to do what I want–read, write, play on the computer, etc. Woe be to him who dares intrude upon it. But, of course, someone did. A distant online friend sent me an instant message. My first inclination was to ignore it. Begrudgingly, I dashed off a cheery greeting. As the exchange progressed, I learned of a difficult situation with which this individual was dealing. I can’t wave a magic wand and make his problem instantly disappear, but taking the time to communicate with him and express my concern and care was a gift to him that he’d probably rather have from me than ________________ (insert name of trendy gift of the season).
After downing enough coffee to be correctly labeled as fit for human interaction, I took the time to send an online message to a friend inviting her to go to an upcoming event with me. I had been putting this task off because I was “too busy” even though I knew this person was having some personal struggles and could use a positive interaction. I felt ashamed of my reluctance to take action when I got a quick reply from her saying she “loved me to pieces” for thinking of her and looked forward to getting together. The smile coming through her words was palpable. Taking the time to reach out to her gave her a much needed boost that a store bought gift simply could not.
In fact, the best Christmas gift ever was a person’s presence. Jesus took the time to be on this earth and give Himself to a hurting and needy world. He could have simply sent wonderful presents to all of God’s children (perhaps gold, frankincense or myrrh), but instead He showed up in person to give love, compassion and eternal life. Let’s take this example to heart. Give more of yourself and less of things for Christmas this year.