As it gets closer to Christmas, I am reminded of my favorite Christmas ever; Christmas at Mercy Ministries, where I was loved in a way like never before and blessed with gifts beyond what I could really comprehend. I remember the few days I had visiting my home, where I could really think about all those gifts I received. I couldn’t believe it. I’m so unworthy I thought to myself, I don’t deserve this. Any of this. I don’t really ‘need’ any of that stuff. They shouldn’t waste their time and money on me. I don’t deserve nice things, I’m not worth it.
But that was the point. They were showing us (the residents; ‘Mercy girls’) how Christ loved us. Saying ‘we know you don’t deserve these things, but we love you, and we want to bless you anyways. You ARE worth it, because Jesus says you are. He made that clear when he died for you!’
It took until that Christmas time for me to come to the realization wow, they pulled out all the stops for me. They gave me so much that I didn’t expect, that I didn’t deserve. I want to make it worth their while.
And my resolution after my Mercy Christmas, I’m going to finish the program well, and show them all these gifts weren’t a waste. I won’t let their time and money be wasted, I’m going to get better so they can be proud of me.
I think back on that, and how, in my maturity at that point, that was a positive response to their giving. Now, however, I can make a bigger connection… the gift of Jesus.
God sent his very own son into the world, gave him as a sacrifice for my sins, simply because He LOVES ME and He wanted to give me the right to become HIS CHILD.
How do I respond to THAT gift? So often I receive it with entitlement. Good, I think to myself, Good thing He saved me. I need to be saved, so someone better do it. And I move on with my life. My life that’s so often centered around everyone and everything but the one who gave it all for me.
The gifts I got at Mercy are small in comparison to the life I was given by God. But why do I respond in such a different way? Why don’t I go to God saying ‘I’m gonna do this right. I’m gonna make you proud, I won’t let this gift be wasted..’?
I was stunned to more questions the other night, when I received thanks from a tired, worn out mother. See, I have the HONOR of being the caregiver to a beautiful, wonderful, 21 month old boy. Recently, his family went through a tragedy where a family member was hospitalized for a time. I picked up extra hours and helped where needed.
His mom said to me as I left for the night, ‘Thank you so much for all you do for Alexander. He really loves you and I am so thankful for you being here, in fact, my whole family is so thankful for what you are doing.’
As I drove home, that really made me think. Alex receives the gifts of time, love, and attention I give him, and it changes his behavior. It changes his behavior so much, so that his mom and aunts and uncles give me thanks. My giving to Alex impacts his entire family. The big question popped in my head, do I receive God’s gifts in such a way that it changes my behaviors? Does God in me impact those around me? Does my life lead my mom and the rest of my family to praise and thank God?
The reality is, it doesn’t always. I don’t always live in such a way, so radically changed and in awe of my savior, that it causes everyone around me to see Jesus and bow to their knees.
But the Truth is, God has saved me. Radically. Awesomely. Miraculously. I wouldn’t be here today if He hadn’t, that’s for sure. I desire to understand the gift of Jesus in a way deeper than I have before. Not simply as another Christmas story, not as an ‘of course He saved me, He’s Jesus’ attitude, but really, more fully, understand the love bound in the gift of Jesus’ birth.
Because I know that my life changes the more I understand this Truth and let it work in my heart. I begin to live radically, awesomely, and miraculously. And I want more of that. I’m ready to unwrap the gift of Jesus again. Another layer of paper gone, another step forward, another embrace in the arms of my Father, a deeper love to understand and change my heart to become more like who God created me to be. I’m ready to unwrap more of the gift that transforms my life.
P.S. if you want to learn more about Mercy or send a Christmas gift, support, or prayer, check out http://www.mercyministries.com