One of my favorite ways to do presents with people is a random gift exchange. Here’s how it works…
First, everyone draws numbers to see the order we follow to choose presents. Then, one by one, players are able to open a gift. When each person’s turn arrives, they have a choice…open a new gift, or “steal” the gift of another person who has already chosen. When everyone has had a chance to go, the first person who opened the gift has the opportunity to trade – one trade – with someone, thus getting to pick from the cream of the crop of gifts.
As a young person, I didn’t appreciate this game so much…especially if I got a present that I really, really liked. Who LIKES having a gift taken away?!? I would participate reluctantly, reducing my expectations over and over and over again, so that I could be satisfied with whatever I got.
It wasn’t until I had a little more maturity about me that I was able to release ties to the presents themselves and realize that the exchange of gifts was the true blessing of this activity.
See, I was focused on my present…what would I get? What would be the gift I’d get to celebrate? My expectations were on the gift I would KEEP…just for me.
But the gifts that are involved in a gift exchange are not the focus of this game. It’s the EXCHANGE that’s important. Gifts come, gifts go. It’s in the ribbing, the joking, the silliness of a gift that totally doesn’t match the recipient, and the laughter that comes with strategy to get what seems most attractive to us. What we actually end up with is a blessing we didn’t have to start with. The blessings of presents along the way, as they move from person to person, are the real gifts. Blessings come, blessings go.
A gift exchange is the way God’s gifts to us are intended to work. If we are blessed with the gift of teaching, it’s not ours to simply possess, but it’s ours to have others take from, to use, to bless others. Same goes with the gift of wealth, the gift of a church family, the gift of singing, the gift of preaching, the gift of mechanics, the gift of carpentry…all gifts. The gift we end up with is always and ever will be the ultimate gift of Jesus’ present/ce in our lives and the relationships we form during the exchange. But if we hold our gifts to our chest and resist when others come to us to receive, we rob ourselves of the final gift and become a barrier for others.
Our blessings and spiritual gifts are only meaningful when we pass them along to others. This is one of the mysteries of God’s presence in our lives. God is never something we possess, nor are any of the blessings God offers. Rather, the blessings are what we give away, and we are blessed in the giving.
This Christmas Eve, you are invited to join us for prayer, a potluck, and a party to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We will share in a gift exchange. Join us, and experience the joy of the smallest giving away of our blessings.
Then, as you celebrate Christmas with your friends and families, remember upon the receiving of every present this year, that while your gift is yours, it will best be used when used for someone else’s blessing.
Jesus was the first to receive the gift of resurrection and life eternal…and He has opened himself up time and time again for us to receive that gift, too. It’s our duty and our greatest privilege to give that gift away to someone else by sharing the gospel and living as servants to one another.