In the midst of your shopping, decorating, card writing and the cooking and baking – before you get frazzled and frayed in the days leading up to Christmas – I want to share an old story with you. In the telling, I pray you might allow it to influence your decisions and activities these next few weeks.
Some time ago there was an American missionary living in a very tiny African village. The young woman was a teacher who labored alongside the natives. One Christmas Eve a little boy from the missionary’s class proudly brought her a crudely wrapped gift. The teacher was surprised. This little boy was poor.
What could he possibly give?
The teacher unwrapped the present and found within the crumpled brown paper an exquisite seashell. The missionary, knowing that the only place to find such shells was many rugged miles away, expressed her enthusiastic appreciation.
“My goodness,” she told him, “you’ve traveled so far to bring me such a wonderful present.”
At first the boy appeared surprised by her reaction, but his eyes quickly brightened and a wide smile crept across his small face.
“Oh, teacher,” he explained, “long walk part of gift.”
It might be tempting, especially during these next few weeks, to believe what the marketers are trying to tell and sell us – that the “perfect” gift will make for a perfect Christmas.
Don’t believe it.
As this little boy taught his teacher – and reminds me and you – it’s not the gift that really matters – it’s the effort, thought and love behind the giving of the gift itself.
Even if you navigate these next few weeks with the right spirit and attitude befitting the celebration of the world’s greatest birthday, you might still find yourself weary and worn out. If you do, don’t despair. Just remember the wonderful words of that little boy, words that I pray might echo down through the years:
“Long walk part of gift.”