Do My Gifts Have Meaning?

Gift giving is a natural part of Christmas. It seems most of us, though, if you’re like me, get our checklist, and just go to town buying and checking off the list as quickly as possible. Then we’re onto the next Christmas party or task.

More than 15 years ago my pastor, Rev. Dr. Danny Massie, told a story about his childhood, and it transformed the way my heart desires to give gifts and the meaning behind them.

Danny grew up in Canton, Mississippi. His Daddy ran the Madison County Feed and Store. When he was a little boy, his Dad proudly built their family’s two-bedroom home, and they finally moved from their little rental home. His family was so proud, especially of the cedar mantel, the symbolic center of the home. Danny’s Dad had taken a cedar tree, and had cut, hewn, and beautifully carved that mantel. Danny remembers the hours and hours his Dad put into sawing, shaving, sanding, and polishing the prized mantel.

A year later, because Danny’s Dad had extended so much generous credit to customers who couldn’t pay, he lost his business. Danny’s Mom suffered a serious bout with depression. They sadly had to sell their home and move into a rodent-infested tenement apartment. Leaving that home was like ripping out the warmth and security from his soul. Danny begged his Dad to take the mantel with them, but his Dad, quiet and reflective, said it needed to stay with the house and that the apartment couldn’t hold it. Danny and his brother graduated from high school and went on to college and seminary.

Years later, Danny and his wife Tita had four children and were living and pastoring the First Presbyterian Church in Kingsport, TN. Their church was raising funds for a Habitat for Humanity house. Danny recalled the painful, emotional memory of his father’s mantel in a sermon to illustrate the importance of having decent, affordable housing.

Unbeknownst to Danny, some of his church members were so moved by the story that they contacted his old home church in Canton. They reviewed the tax records and found Danny’s old homeplace in Mississippi.  They drove from Tennessee to Mississippi on a mission. They contacted the owners. As it turned out, nearly 40 years later, the mantel had been taken down from the fireplace but was still on the property.  The owner said he had thought of disposing it so many times. There must have been a purpose behind the preservation of that mantel.

A few weeks after the trip, on June 28, 1992, during what Danny thought would be the closing Benediction to his sermon, triumphant music played as Danny’s son and one of the church elders processed the beautifully restored, 100-pound mantel down the aisle to Danny.  Tears flowed. Hearts overflowed. What a gift…what a meaningful gift.

Danny has been the Senior Pastor at First (Scots) Presbyterian Church since 1997. Danny brought His Father’s Mantel from Tennessee, and it hangs on the wall in his office in Charleston, SC.  That meaningful mantel has warmed hearts in three states. What gift could I give, could you give to warm hearts for years and over such distances?

Others who knew how to give meaningful gifts were the wise men as they welcomed the new Baby Jesus. Gold is the gift for a king. Frankincense is appropriate for a diety, a god. Myrrh is embalming fluid, used in preparing a burial. It makes me teary-eyed just writing those words. When you sing the Christmas Carol “We Three Kings,” you see the gifts’ symbolism explained. What gifts…what meaningful gifts.

Ah, and the sweet, baby Jesus—He is the Ultimate Gift to the whole world.

What a Gift…What a Meaningful Gift.

This Christmas, really for any holiday and special occasion, go deep, my friend. Get to know your family and friends’ hearts, their stories, their passions, their history. Meaningful gifts don’t have to cost much, except perhaps your time, your effort, and your heart.

Reflect:

–As you consider the loved ones you will see over this Christmas, how can you present them with a meaningful gift? Please comment.

–How much of yourself are you sharing with loved ones, both sweet and painful  memories and dreams, so that they may give you meaningful gifts?

Renew:

–“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! ” –2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV

–“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” –James 1:17 NIV

Recharge:

–We have 15 days before Christmas. If all your gift checklists are complete, please consider writing a meaningful letter to each loved one. Tell each loved one at least one way your life has been impacted by him/her. Or tell a fun/sweet memory. Tell your dreams.

–Please comment and let me know how this “meaningful gift” idea resonates.

Resource:

http://www.songonlyrics.com/kem-we-three-kings-lyrics

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Hark! The Herald Carols Sing, Post #8

Christmas music stirs the soul. Since it’s been playing in all the stores,  classrooms, our cars , homes, and work since November 1st or earlier, I admit that I am guilty of passing over some of my favorite, heart-stirring, theologically-sound Christmas carols as background noise.  Not this Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, though. Or at least I want to make a conscious effort to let the words soak in.

Take, for example, “Silent Night, Holy Night.” All my life, we have sung that sweet carol in church and on the radio, even out Christmas caroling with neighbors. It wasn’t until a recent Christmas Eve service that I truly listened,  the church sanctuary aglow with merely the warm, bright flames of our individual candles. I let the words marinate. Then I wept.

“Silent night, holy night!
Son of God, Love’s Pure Light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace—
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth. Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.”

How beautiful to think of Jesus as “Love’s Pure Light.” He is. He is. He is the Light of the World! (John 8:12)!

Also beautiful to think of His sweet, redeeming grace that is a true Gift to each of us who want to receive it.

Even “What Child is This?” I passed over for years. Then it hit me.

“Good Christian, fear—
For sinners here
The silent Word is pleading…
This, This is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him laud—The Babe, the Son of Mary.”

We can almost hear the urgency in the message: “Listen, everybody—this, THIS is Christ the King, don’t you see? Hurry up and bring Him the praises He deserves.”

My favorite Christmas Carol is “O Holy Night.” When I was nine years old, my parents asked/made me start taking piano lessons. I took until tenth grade, when basketball and volleyball took priority. I quit piano. I regret that now. My favorite music to play, and still is, though, are Christmas carols. All those years I played “O Holy Night,” and even sang the words.

It wasn’t until recently that a phrase in the carol moved me, and the Holy Spirit filled my heart to overflowing.

 “Long lay the world
In sin and error pining,
‘Til He appeared
And the soul felt its worth.”

That’s it! That’s it! That’s the message. When Jesus came to this earth and into our hearts, our souls, my soul, finally felt worth. The music level of that carol rises, and our hearts reach a crescendo.

By the way, just for good measure, I looked up the word “herald.” It means “A person who carries or proclaims important news; a messenger. One that gives a sign or indication of something to come; a harbinger.” You are that messenger, my friend.

My simple prayer for you on this Christmas Eve, and I vow to you that I will do the same, is to attend a Christmas Eve church service and listen, to hush our hearts. To breathe the words into our souls as we sing. It doesn’t matter how well you sing. We are called to make a “joyful noise.”

If you enjoy a candlelit service (I love candle light), please hold your candle high when you belt out “Joy to the World.”  What Truth in that carol, spoken so simply, so passionately.

“He rules the world with Truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders of His love.”

Amen. Merry Christmas, Herald Friend! Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Reflect:

  • What is your favorite Christmas Carol? Why? Please comment.

Renew:

  • “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” –Ephesians 5:19, 20 (NIV 1984).
  • “My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul.” –Psalm 108:1 (NIV 1984).

Recharge:

  • Today is the perfect day to know Jesus better, as we celebrate His birthday. He wants you to choose Him. After all, love is not love if not chosen. Simply repeat this prayer aloud:

“Dear Lord Jesus,

 I am so sorry I have chosen to live apart from You. I have tried to run my own life for too long. I want You in my life. I accept the payment of love You gave for me by Your birth, Your death on the cross, and Your resurrection. 

I invite You to come into my heart and life. Thank you for being my Savior, Redeemer and Best Friend.” Amen.

  • If you prayed that prayer, Congratulations! “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” –Romans 10:13
  • Please tell others of your eternal decision, the most important decision of your life! Please find a Christ-centered church home where you worship, fellowship and serve with other Christians. Please demonstrate your new life by your love and concern for others. For more information, check out www.billygraham.org or call 1-877-247-2426.
  • Please comment and let me know also. I’m so proud of you! You just gave Jesus the best birthday gift ever–your heart! Let’s PARTY!
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The Mantel, Post #7

Gift giving is a natural part of Christmas. It seems most of us, though, get our checklist, and just go to town buying and checking off the list as quickly as possible. Then we’re onto the next Christmas party or task.

More than 15 years ago my pastor, Rev. Dr. Danny Massie, told a story about his childhood, and it transformed the way I give gifts and the meaning behind them.

Danny grew up in Canton, Mississippi. His Daddy ran the Madison County Feed and Store. When he was a little boy, his Dad proudly built their family’s two-bedroom home, and they finally moved from their little rental home. His family was so proud, especially of the cedar mantel, the symbolic center of the home. Danny’s Dad had taken a cedar tree, and had cut, hewn, and beautifully carved that mantel. Danny remembers the hours and hours his Dad put into sawing, shaving, sanding, and polishing the prized mantel.

A year later, because Danny’s Dad had extended so much generous credit to customers who couldn’t pay, he lost his business. Danny’s Mom suffered a serious bout with depression. They sadly had to sell their home and move into a rodent-infested tenement apartment. Leaving that home was like ripping out the warmth and security from his soul. Danny begged his Dad to take the mantel with them, but his Dad, quiet and reflective, said it needed to stay with the house and that the apartment couldn’t hold it. Danny and his brother graduated from high school and went on to college and seminary.

Years later, Danny and his wife Tita had four children and were living and pastoring the First Presbyterian Church in Kingsport, TN. Their church was raising funds for a Habitat for Humanity house. Danny recalled the painful, emotional memory of his father’s mantel in a sermon to illustrate the importance of having decent, affordable housing.

Unbeknownst to Danny, some of his church members were so moved by the story that they contacted his old home church in Canton. They reviewed the tax records and found Danny’s old homeplace in Mississippi.  They drove from Tennessee to Mississippi on a mission. They contacted the owners. As it turned out, nearly 40 years later, the mantel had been taken down from the fireplace but was still on the property.  The owner said he had thought of disposing it so many times. There must have been a purpose behind the preservation of that mantel.

A few weeks after the trip, on June 28, 1992, during what Danny thought would be the closing Benediction to his sermon, triumphant music played as Danny’s son and one of the church elders processed the beautifully restored, 100-pound mantel down the aisle to Danny.  Tears flowed. Hearts overflowed. What a gift…what a meaningful gift.

We are blessed that Danny has been our Senior Pastor at First (Scots) Presbyterian Church since 1997. Danny brought His Father’s Mantel from Tennessee, and it hangs on the wall in his office in Charleston, SC.  That meaningful mantel has warmed hearts in three states.

Others who knew how to give meaningful gifts were the wise men as they welcomed the new Baby Jesus. Gold is the gift for a king. Frankincense is appropriate for a diety, a god. Myrrh is embalming fluid, used in preparing a burial. It makes me teary-eyed just writing those words. When you sing the Christmas Carol “We Three Kings,” you see the gifts’ symbolism explained. What gifts…what meaningful gifts.

Ah, and the sweet, baby Jesus—He was/is the Ultimate Gift to the whole world. What a Gift…What a Meaningful Gift.

This Christmas, really for any holiday and special occasion, go deep, my friend. Get to know your family and friends’ hearts, their stories, their passions, their history. Meaningful gifts don’t have to cost much, except perhaps your time, your effort, and your heart.

Reflect:

–As you consider the loved ones you will see over this Christmas, how can you present them with a meaningful gift?

–How much of yourself are you sharing with loved ones, both sweet and painful  memories and dreams, so that they may give you meaningful gifts?

Renew:

–“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! ” –2 Corinthians 9:15

–“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” –James 1:17

Recharge:

–We have eight days before Christmas. If all your gift checklists are complete, consider writing a meaningful letter to each loved one. Tell each loved one at least one way your life has been impacted by him/her. Or tell a fun/sweet memory. Tell your dreams.

–Please comment and let me know how this “meaningful gift” idea resonates.

–Speaking of Gifts, Congratulations to Ann Rowland of Greenville and Linda Hydrick of Charleston, SC, for winning the two $25 Target Gift Cards. Thank you for everyone who added their comments to last week’s “Rushing the Sunrise” questions about waiting.

Resource:

— http://first-scots.org/

http://www.songonlyrics.com/kem-we-three-kings-lyrics [Read more…]

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