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FIRST-PERSON: A gift above all others

MELISSA, Texas (BP)–In 1991, Andrew did what dozens of pastors and scholars only hoped to do. My friend Andrew, with no theological training or philosophical expertise, unwittingly but unmistakably showed me the true meaning of Christmas.

After Andrew and I returned to college from our winter break, he asked me what presents I had received for Christmas. I began to tell him about the new clothes, the best-selling books, the popular running shoes and all the other items on the list of precious gifts given me by family and friends. He seemed somewhat impressed, pleased at my apparent holiday windfall.

“So, Andrew, what did you get for Christmas?” I asked. Expecting to hear his wonderful list of presents, my roommate instead replied silently, holding up but one small item, an alarm clock that probably cost less than $5 at the thrift shop. “That’s nice”, I answered, thinking that I was sure glad I hadn’t received such a present, seemingly so small and insignificant.

Later, as roommates often do during late nights of academic studies interspersed with stories about home, I would tease Andrew by pretending to throw that clock into the air and then catch it right before it hit the ground, feigning an attempt to damage his precious clock. Andrew never thought this game was funny, however, because his clock meant much more to him than I ever understood.

As the years passed and our four years together at college came to a close, I noticed that while he moved from room to room and roommate to roommate, Andrew always had that same inexpensive alarm clock stored closely beside his bed. You see, Andrew’s family back in West Virginia was far from wealthy and the only present his parents could afford to give him for Christmas was that simple, unimpressive clock. What seemed like garage sale material for some families was a family treasure for Andrew.

You know what? Today, 13 years later, I cannot remember a single present I received for Christmas that year. You know what else? For the rest of my life, I will never forget Andrew’s gift. While my parents bought me presents that were more elegant, more expensive and certainly more numerous, that one single present from Andrew’s parents was definitely more precious.

As this Christmas season approaches, God asked me to tell Him what was most important in my life. For what am I searching? What is my top priority? Do I value all the fancy and impressive features in life? Am I searching for notoriety and pleasure, while refusing to acknowledge what is really most meaningful in life?

Sadly, too many people will be like me this Christmas, worrying about my long list of errands, searching for that perfect present, looking for the best bargain, all the while missing the only gift really worth giving. Andrew’s parents understood that if you can only give one gift, you had better make it special. My family and I, on the other hand, thought more was better and more expensive meant more valuable.

God the Father has given us innumerable gifts, including life and freedom and hope and peace and health, all of which are wonderful and make life more enjoyable. One gift, however, is too important to miss. God sent His gift, His only Son, to be born as a helpless child about 2,000 years ago. Jesus came to earth to live and to die to show us how to live and how to die as faithful followers of His Father, the Creator God. Yet, the parties and decorations and purchases of this commercially driven holiday season have apparently become more valuable to us than the original Gift sent to us by God.

What is important to you? Do you focus on all the things that won’t really matter in the end, or do you cherish the One who truly matters most of all? Do you even remember all the other places that you hoped to find the answers to life’s questions, or were they simply more dead ends? If my social calendar and my errands keep me from meeting Jesus this Christmas, I will truly have missed it all.

Thanks, Andrew, for helping me understand that the true meaning of Christmas is in cherishing that which matters most rather than futilely searching after all the trappings of the world. When the advertisers encourage us to spend and buy and give, remember, “they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:25). This Christmas, ask God for the gift of life, found only in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Trey Graham, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Melissa, Texas, is a speaker, columnist, author of “Lessons for the Journey” (America House, 2001), and director of Faith Walk Ministries (www.faithwalkministries.com).

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  • Trey Graham