I guess that for most of us, Christmas and birthday are among the most exciting times of the year, because of the gifts we receive. Have you noticed that the gifts we get the most pleasure from are often not the most costly ones? What parent has not spent quite a lot of money on some marvelous new toy, only for the child to get hours of enjoyment from playing with the box the toy came in!
Here’s something else surprising about about gifts: Jesus once said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ A truly loving gift brings at least as much joy to the giver as to the receiver.
A woman missionary in the South Pacific Islands was explaining to a group of children the custom and significance of giving gifts at Christmas. “Giving gifts,” she said, “expresses love and reminds us of the perfect gift of love we received from God: Jesus.” Later that week, a young native boy came to the missionary’s side and said, “I love you and want you to have this.” He pulled from a straw basket the most beautiful shell the missionary had ever seen. As she admired its beauty, she recognized it as a special shell only found on the far side of the island, a half day’s walk from the village. When confronted by this, the boy smiled and said, “Long walk part of gift!”
The Bible tells us that God has given gifts to his people. Acts 4:10 highlights the gift of healing that was given to Peter and John. They knew they had been given that gift not for their own good, but for the good of others. When they used the gift, they didn’t say, ‘Look at us, we can heal people.’ No, they healed ‘in the name of Christ Jesus of Nazareth.’
God’s gifts are meant to be used. The famous Violinist Paganini left his violin to the city of Genoa, on the condition that it must never be played again. God’s gifts are not like that: they are meant to be used, and, like muscles, grow stronger by being used.
God has given gifts to all his people. Each one of us has the ability to serve God and other people. No-one can do everything; but everyone can do something. Some of these gifts seem very ordinary: gifts of caring, service, and organisation; others are extraordinary: gifts of healing and of miracles. It is God who distributes these gifts ‘as he wills.’ We shouldn’t be proud of our own gifts. Nor should we be jealous of the gifts of others. Paul teaches that the Christian church is like a body. It has many different parts, and they all depend on each other for the proper working of the whole.
Imagine the Master Carpenter’s tools holding a conference. Harry Hammer leads the meeting, but several suggest he leave because he is so noisy. Mk Hammer replies,’If I have to leave this workshop, Sarah Screw must leave also. You have to turn her round and round to get her to do anything useful.’ Sarah Screw then speaks up: ‘If you wish, I will leave. But Percy Plane must leave too. All his work is on the surface. His efforts have no depth.’ To this, Percy Plane responds, ‘Rachel Ruler will also have to withdraw, for she is always measuring folks as though she were the only one who is right.’ Rachel Ruler then complains about Sammy Sandpaper: ‘He ought to leave, too, because he’s so rough and is always rubbing people up the wrong way.’ In the middle of all this discussion, in walks the Carpenter of Nazareth. He has arrived to start his day’s work. Putting on his apron, he goes to the bench and uses Harry Hammer, Sarah Screw, Percy Plane, Rachel Ruler, Sammy Sandpaper, and all the other tools. After the day’s work, Simon Saw stands up and remarks: ‘Brothers and sisters, I observe that all of us are workers together with the Lord.’ (Adapted from Leslie B. Flynn, Nineteen Gifts of the Spirit)
Prayer: ‘Lord, I confess that I often envy the gifts of others because being in the limelight seems more desirable than serving you when no one notices. Forgive me and help me to use the gifts I have to serve you, together with your people; to serve you and you only. Amen’