After more than twenty years of marriage, my wife and I are getting worse at buying each other Christmas presents. The main reason is this: we don’t need much and we often buy what we need rather save those purchases up on a Christmas list. So often it comes down to the fact that we know what each other is giving. For example, I got her one present this year I would not dare buy her without her input. Of course, that does not mean we cannot surprise each other every once and a while.
That said, with Christmas shopping down and Christmas upon us, I began to think about what else I would put under the tree for those I love. I came up with three things. The list is not exhaustive, but these are the things that are challenging me at the present.
1. Gift #1 – For My Savior and Lord, I give myself. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom. 12:1, ESV) I cannot truly give anything to God that He does not already own. But I can submit to His will, I can seek to be obedient, I can offer myself – my body, my mind, my spirit, my emotions, my will – to Him as a sacrifice of worship. This year I want to give myself to my Savior, every day, not just at Christmas, because this is what pleases God.
2. Gift #2 – For my wonderful wife, I give unconditional love. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” (Eph. 5:25-30, ESV) So many people today fall in and out of love. We get married because we are swept along with the emotion of love. We get divorced because those emotions have changed or they are no longer there. God calls believing husbands to a different standard. To love as Christ loved. To give ourselves for our wives. To sacrifice for them. To order our lives for their best. That is what Christ did for us – dying on the cross so that His church would be made holy and acceptable to God. His love did not change, although people in his day rejected Him and believers over the centuries have let Him down. His love is an unconditional commitment to His church. In the same way, my wife deserves the same kind of unconditional commitment from me. This year, I want to give that gift to my wife. I want my words and my actions to consistently send the message that I love her without conditions.
3. Gift #3 – For my family, I give gentleness and self-control. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23, ESV) That is an intimidating list. I struggle with all of those things at one time or another. I struggle to allow God’s Spirit to produce those things in me. He is always faithful to produce the fruit, but I am not always faithful to bear it so others can see it. The two items on the list that are especially a struggle are gentleness and self-control. The fact is, at home, I have a tendency to speak without gentleness. I have a tendency to speak quickly without thinking. My tone is not right. My words at times sound harsh or angry, even if I am not. Gentleness and self-control are the fruits I have the most difficult time bearing. But I need to – for the sake of my wife and my children. This year I want to lay those gifts under the tree for my family, allowing God’s Spirit to truly produce them in my life.
That’s my list. What is on your final Christmas list this year?