How silently, how silently,The wondrous Gift is giv'n!So God imparts to human heartsThe blessings of His heaven.No ear may hear His coming,But in this world of sin,Where meek souls will receive Him still,The dear Christ enters in.
So my Christmas reflection comes a little late this year...but we are still technically in the season of Christmas for three more days, so I'm gonna roll with it.
I love Christmas. Love. And I LOVE presents. Do people actually admit that these days? Most people try to be coy about getting gifts...it's better to give than to receive...yada yada. Don't get me wrong - I love to give a good gift. But as for me, receiving is always better. I love gifts. They are my love language [for real]. It doesn't need to be huge, but a thoughtful gift brings life to my soul [feel free to send gifts in response to this...seriously.]
Over the years though Steve and I have not been able to really give one another gifts for Christmas. One year we actually were in the midst of a year-long shopping fast, so we asked for no gifts at all. But more often we just have not had the extra money for presents. This year we were able to do something small for one another - but gifts have not been the center piece of our Christmas time. I know that should be the way it should be...but for me it has been a bit of a loss...because I love gifts!
As we started to think about what we would want or need - not much came to mind. I mean big ticket items like a tropical vacation [I would argue a need...but probably a want...] or a new camera or new computer...but none of these things did we desperately need. In fact, we realized that we have plenty of stuff, we are not in need. For that I am truly grateful.
Yet this Christmas I received a new gift...a much overlooked Christmas song. "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" - I have heard it many times before, but this year it was my greatest gift...and lucky me, it talks about getting a gift! The line that really stayed with me this Christmas was this:
How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given.
In the midst of a noisy season, this is profound wisdom. There is so much to distract us during Christmas...and they are wonderful things! Parties, decorations, pretty presents, food...celebration! Christmas does not come on quietly in our culture...it is announced months in advance with bright lights, shiny papers, and aisles of toys. In the midst of all this, it is easy to miss the silent gift of God.
Another line from this song that I keep reflecting on:
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
This silent gift is easy to miss in the midst of all the loud distractions, but it is the gift I need most. This gift where my hopes and fears are met. The older I get, while I still LOVE getting presents [keeping it real here people], I also realize that I am in need of something much deeper than a vacation or new gadget. I am in need of a peace that I cannot give myself. I am in need of a hope that can sustain me through the most trying of circumstances. I am in need of a love that frees me to love others. This is not a loudly given gift...but it is the gift that is available in this Christmas season...should we get quiet enough to recognize it.
This past year I have noticed how afraid I am. Specifically around whether others will accept me or not. And this fear creates social anxiety for me...and hiding...and isolating. I realized that I am not at peace within my own soul. And while a new pair of jeans can help distract me from this fear - it does not heal it. And I have come to a point in my life that I am tired of all the distractions. I would rather risk hoping and being disappointed than to live hidden, barricaded, and alone. I need a gift that will meet my hopes and fears.
So this Christmas my prayer has been this:
God, give me the gift of your peace that is beyond all understanding.
It's not something you can wrap up under a tree, it's not something you can put on an Amazon wish list, and it is not something you can show off on social media. It is a gift that only God can give...and you have to pay attention to even see it at work. Someone once told me spiritual growth is the slowest growth of all. It is a gift that is unwrapped over time - but it is a gift all the same. And it is there, available to all of us, should we humbly receive it.
So, while I will always LOVE presents under the tree, I am growing to value this other gift far more. I am seeing the value in a life lived in freedom rather than fear. I am growing to be more comfortable in my skin...and inviting others to be comfortable in theirs. This silent gift is the greatest gift.