article by Paul Lipe
I REMEMBER that, through the years, Christmas has been one of my favorite days on the calendar. And as I recall Christmases-Past, one stands out as very special – it was the year that I received my first bike!
The custom at our home was to open gifts on Christmas Eve. After dinner, my parents, my three sisters and I gathered around the Christmas tree. Now these were lean years for us financially, so there were not many packages to unwrap. And I did not see anything under the tree with my name on it, except for a card. Things did not look too promising for me – until I was handed the card with a message telling me to look on the front porch.
I rushed outside, wondering what my gift could possibly be – and then I saw it. It was a beautiful bike with its light shining brightly into the chilly, December night. I thought that I must be the luckiest boy in the world (at that early age, I had not yet learned that Presbyterians do not believe in luck, but, instead, trust in Providence)! The bike was just what I wanted, but not something I had anticipated receiving for Christmas. It was a gigantic surprise!
The reason that I was so surprised by this remarkable gift was that I knew that my parents could not afford it, so I certainly did not expect to receive such a gift. But as was often the case with my folks, they frequently sacrificed for me and my sisters, and this made the bike even more special because I knew, even at that early age, that my parents had been willing to deny themselves for their child.
Now, not only did I know that they could not afford such a gift, but I was also aware that I did not deserve their sacrifice. I was not a rotten, disobedient kid, but I was far from being ideal. My parents would have been justified had they decided to give me nothing for Christmas, but thankfully, they tempered their justice with a big serving of mercy. And they gave me that beautiful bike. This special gift, undeserved and given by loving parents who sacrificed in order to give, produced a feeling of deep gratitude in my heart.
However, later on, that bike did figure into a run-in I had with justice. My father had stressed to me the importance of taking good care of the bike, letting me know that it was my responsibility to handle that bike with proper diligence.
I failed to meet his expectations, because, one night, I left the bike outside, and it rained! You need to understand that there was no “politically correct” in my father – so, he “tanned my hide.”
That day, I learned that what he sacrificed for, I needed to value – the same way that citizens of the U.S. ought to be thankful that, although all is not perfect in our society, there is no better place in the world to live. Many men and women have paid the ultimate sacrifice to secure and preserve the freedoms that make America the great nation that she is; if some think differently, perhaps they would want to make their home somewhere else. All of us in this country have been blessed with much, and in my opinion, we all ought to be grateful.
This undeserved gift which I received that Christmas long ago brings to my mind the most amazing Christmas Gift that anyone has ever received – the Gift of the One Who gives Christmas its name. That Gift was also given to those who do not merit it, and He was given at great cost to the Giver. Why? Because our Father loves so much and because His Son loves with equal depth. But do we ever stop to think how the Father feels when this awesome Gift is not properly valued. My father was upset by my careless treatment of the bike — what about those times when we treat Jesus in ways that reflect lack of appreciation and love? Our heavenly Father surely must be troubled and offended by such behavior.
So, dear friend, whatever gifts you and I may give or receive at this glorious time of year, let us, with grateful hearts, rejoice in the wonderful Gift of the Savior!