Yearly Archives: 2013

Attitudes to Cultivate Retrospectively and Prospectively

Writing this on the evening of Christmas Day, my thoughts are drawn both retrospectively and prospectively. Family and friends have shared gifts that express their love and blessing. I am led to recall the rich contributions they have made in my life by our relationships across the years. The gifts are pleasant reminders, but the far greater value is how we have shared our lives and have celebrated mutual blessings. I am also drawn to prospective hopes for the days to come. The gifts exchanged today and in this Christmas season are tokens of hopes and prayers for joy, peace, and wellness in the future. Gifts given today are blessings that continue to unfold for time to come.

Those attitudes toward the wonder of gifts – both those enjoyed in the past and new ones offering life for many tomorrows – are states of mind well worth cultivating. Seeing all of life and especially our relationships with God and others as precious gifts could transform how we live each day. With Christmas past and the New Year soon to dawn, adopting a gift-mentality is my best recommendation for reaching the full life God intends for us to live.

I have shared in previous year-end Blind Faith devotionals one of my favorite sources for this gift-mentality notion. I stand by my reflections on Sigurd Undset’s words. I share them again and pray that you will find new applications in your life. The remainder of this text is from Blind Faith, December 27, 2012:

For many people the Christmas season is not over. Travel schedules and other concerns delay opportunities for family and friends to get together and exchange gifts until days after Christmas day. Getting around to sharing Christmas with everyone special to you sometimes takes awhile. With Christmas giving still either ongoing or a fresh memory, I am rerunning one of my favorite perspectives on the festival of gifting. The following is edited from Blind Faith devotionals from previous Christmas seasons. Remember that Christmas itself – centered correctly in the incarnation of Jesus – if the best gift of all time. Here, once again, is the story of my all-time favorite Christmas card:

“What a perfect gift! How did you know just what I needed and wanted?” This and similar exclamations are repeated countless times every Christmas season. Families, friends, and colleagues exchange gifts ranging from the lavish to the practical to the frivolous. Some gifts, of course are perfunctory fulfillment of social norms, trinkets exchanged because that is what is expected. Other gifts, however, are presented as the culmination of careful consideration of the recipient’s needs and dreams. The gift is motivated by genuine love and companionship, and is presented with love and great joy. With that kind of giving, echoes of Christmas carols seem to ring in our ears, even without our iPods!

If we reach this lofty pinnacle of gift giving, we should remember that our actions are following the pattern of the original gift-giver, God. James tells us, “Every good present and every perfect gift comes from above, from the Father who made the sun, moon, and stars.” (James 1:17a GWT) He echoes the affirmation of the Psalmist, who praises God for all his gifts: “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. {16} You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. {17} The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made.” (Psalm 145:15-17 NIV)

One of the most enduring reminders of the true motivation for giving Christmas gifts I have found I first read on a Christmas card we sent while I was in graduate school. I was so impressed with the text that Sherron had our pediatric nurse/seminary student baby sitter cross stitch the text. The framed gift hangs on my study wall to this day. The text is the work of Sigurd Undset (1882-1949), one of only three Norwegian recipients of the Noble prize for literature. Growing up in an agnostic, well-to-do family in Norway, she became intrigued with Europe in the Middle Ages. Researching a major novel set in medieval Norway, she was impressed with the profound influence of Christian faith in the lives of individuals and the course of European history. Her fascination led to personal investigation, and at age 42, Sigurd Undset opened her heart to receive God’s most perfect gift, new life through faith in Jesus Christ. Her gratitude to God for the original Christmas gift – the birth of Jesus – inspired the words that adorned the front of the Christmas card:

And when we give each other Christmas gifts in his name, let us remember that he has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans and all that lives and moves upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused.

And to save us from our own foolishness, from all our sins, he came down to earth and gave us himself. (Sigrid Undset)

The message inside the card completes the thought well:

What we pray for, hope for, live for comes as a gift. Christmas blessings.

The miracle of giving is that God knows us so intimately and loves us so deeply that he gives us not only the wherewithal to give the gifts we always take for granted (“O, thanks! Another shirt!), but he gives us the most extravagant gift in all eternity, Jesus Christ, his son. Maybe every gift exchange during our Christmas celebration should begin with a recitation of the reason for the season: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 NKJV) Then we might exclaim at the end of our gifting spree, realizing what it all celebrates, “Thanks be to God for his gift that is too wonderful for words.” (2 Corinthians 9:15 NCV)

May all of your celebration this Christmastide and beyond be filled with the kind of hope, peace, joy, and love that is epitomized in the birth of Jesus.

God’s blessings – for Christmas and for the coming new year.

– J. Edward Culpepper

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