Years ago Sears Roebuck used to publish toy catalogs at Christmas. I’d get one for my daughter and one year just before Christmas she asked me “What am I going to get for Christmas?” I didn’t know if she had anything particular in mind but guessed that maybe there was something she wanted. I got the toy catalog and told her “Sit down and find me a page in that catalog where you don’t have something on it. You may not have that doll house but you have a doll house. You may not have that bicycle but you have a bicycle. You don’t have all of those books but you have lots of books.”
She sat down, took the catalog and apparently couldn’t find a page where she didn’t have at least something.
I thought that “Maybe you’re spoiled” or “You should be thankful that you have so much.” We still searched and found her gifts for the Christmas celebration and she was happy.
Giving gifts can be a challenge for all of us. I am happiest when my recipient tells me that my choice was a thoughtful one or something needed. Many times there are “generic” gifts where I hope the receiver will understand my intentions and make use of what I chose. I’ve always heard “It’s the thought that counts” and I have been pleased when someone who doesn’t really know me can come up with something I can use or at least enjoy. Not too long ago, I heard about “re-gifting” and passing things along that weren’t really needed when people feel an obligation to give something and do not want something received to go to waste.
One Church developed a practice during announcement time to present members of the congregation with a token gift after telling of something noteworthy that the recipient had done for the Church or for someone. This “award ceremony” got longer and longer, and when I arrived at the Church I was told that I was the person who was to make the announcements-only! I was curious and tracked down the reasons for this rule. It seems that the gift-giving got more and more bizarre. Finally, one member got up and sung the praises of another member and made a presentation for all of the good works; a pair of socks! That brought the Sunday morning practice to an end; enough was enough!
Like all of us, I hope to give something that reflects my caring in my choice. As far as from God, I hope I ask things that are worthy of being asked for; remembering always that God knows better than I do about what I need. Most all of the “gifts” bestowed on me by ordination are to be freely given but I have two exceptions. I tell people that I do not bless “pretend marriages” or lottery tickets (and I’ve been asked to do both!)
Then I reflect on my gifts from God. Freely given and received with thanks; and with the intention to say “Thanks, Lord” when I needed something and God provided. We say “….thy will be done….” and need to remember that God gives according to what may be best for us even when we may not understand.
There is that request for a gift from God that was granted and God was pleased; and God threw in some additional guidance and something not asked-for in addition to a special request. I am referring to Solomon’s request to God when he is about to become King of Israel; 1 Kings 3:5ff. The Lord appeared to Solomon and said “Ask whatever you want me to give you (v. 5).” Solomon answered “You have shown kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued to show this great kindness to him and given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. Now. O Lord my god, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. .. so give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong (vss 6-9)” We hear that “God was pleased” (v.10) and granted him “a wise and discerning heart (v. 12) and added a special place in the life of his people and a long life too. Solomon was known for his wisdom and counted among the greatest of the patriarchs.
Today my prayers are a bit vicarious for our leaders, but with the hope that they can be counted among those who were up to the challenges of our day. With elections in the offing, I pray that we may have wise leaders and those with discerning hearts too.
I do not try to second-guess motives or reasons for decisions: I rarely have all of the information that goes into decision-making but pray that the leaders we have lead with wisdom. Solomon asked for great gift but it was not too great for God to grant. He even threw in some gifts not asked for. I hope I do so in my own life when called upon to give. I also pray that His gifts may be granted to others according to the needs they are called upon to fulfill. Praying for wisdom and discernment; for ourselves and for others, are prayers that I count among the most worthy I can offer. I hope you share them too.