By Daniel Schantz
The stubborn conundrum of Christmas is, “What will I get for everyone on my list?”
Some people just give everyone the same thing, like a homemade fruitcake, but one has to wonder if there is not some symbolic meaning behind all those fruits and nuts.
Without a doubt, the hardest person to buy for is the one who has everything, like your boss, who drives a Lamborghini and gave Super Bowl tickets to everyone at the office Christmas party.
The Lord is somewhat like your boss. It’s his birthday we are celebrating at Christmas, but he needs nothing.
“If I were hungry,” he says in Psalm 50:12, “I would not tell you, for the world is mine and all that is in it.”
And yet, there are still things God would like from us, and his wish list is recorded in Mark 12:30: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
What can I give the God who has everything? Here are three gift suggestions.
Give Him Your Mind
The three wise men are symbolic of the millions of intellectuals who have blessed the church for centuries: linguists, who translate the Scriptures into many languages. Authors, editors, and web wizards, who have made Christianity popular. Christian attorneys and judges who have defended Christians. Christian businessmen, scientists, politicians, teachers, and musicians, who have been salt and light in our dark world. Without these gifted minds, the church might still be dwelling in catacombs, surviving on bats and lizards.
Not that I need to belong to Mensa to be used of God. If I have basic math skills, I might make a good church treasurer. If I understand electronics, I could work in the sound booth at church. If I am literate, I could read aloud to children in the church day care center.
My wife is a magician with money. A good thing, since I have never exactly needed an armed escort to bring home my paycheck from my college employer. We have lived well on my income alone, thanks to her mastery of economics. Once I said to her, “Hon, if anything happens to you, I will just go downtown and turn myself in at the police station, because it will just be a matter of days before I am passing bad checks.”
Several good minds working together on a church board can multiply brainpower. Or not. My minister-father used to marvel how a board of businessmen could fumble so badly when it came to church matters. And yet, there were times when they saw things he didn’t, and more than once they saved his skin. “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many” (Proverbs 11:14).
Give Him Your Heart
The angels and the shepherds worshipped the newborn king openly and loudly, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). These two styles of worship still prevail today. Extroverted worshippers clap, shout, sway back and forth, and sing with exuberance. They are leaders.
Sometimes I envy their uninhibited nature. Most of the time I do not, content to be the introvert God made me. Introverts are just as emotional as extroverts, but their emotions are contained. Like the bride, who is so emotional that her vows are spoken in a whisper. Or like the Quakers, who worship God by sitting in silence—their rich emotions radiating upward to God, like warmth from a fireplace.
In his autobiography, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. admitted he was embarrassed by loud, emotional worship and almost didn’t become a minister because of it. But at Morehouse College he discovered his style in his professors, who practiced emotional restraint.
Whether my emotions are outward and visible, or inward and private, God can read my heart.
The “will” is another part of the heart that God wants from me. It has been said that “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” meaning that will alone is not enough to save us. Maybe so, but it’s also true that “the road to Heaven is paved with good intentions.”
When ancient King David wanted to build a temple for God, he was rejected because he was a man of war. Rather than grumbling about it, he set about collecting the materials his son, Solomon, would need for the project: stones and cedars, iron and bronze, beyond measure (1 Chronicles 22:3). Later, God commended David for his willingness. “You did well to have it in your heart to build a temple for my Name” (2 Chronicles 6:8).
I can’t do everything I want to do for God, but I can be willing to try.
Charles Gabriel was an Iowa farm boy in the 1800s who composed nearly 8,000 songs, many of them in our church hymnals. In one hymn he writes, “It may not be at the battle’s front my Lord will have need of me.” He added, “There’s surely somewhere in a lowly place in earth’s harvest fields so wide, where I may labor thro’ life’s short day” (from “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go”). For Gabriel, that lowly place was the little village of Wilton, Iowa, where he began his work, and now, 140 years later, his songs are still sung around the world.
Even one task done faithfully for years can add up to a lot of service. One day I was visiting with a staff member at our college, the woman who creates all our publications. Her talent and dedication are legendary. She seemed down, that day, even had tears in her eyes.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, fearing some terrible thing had happened.
She shrugged. “It’s nothing. It’s just that I feel like I have never done anything important for God. I can’t preach, I sure can’t sing. . . . I’m too shy to witness well, and I have never baptized anyone.”
I was astonished that a woman of her productivity could not see her own worth.
“You know,” I reminded her, “your publications recruit students who will do all those things and more. And without your work, we would never receive the publicity and funds we need to operate this school.”
It’s good that she wants to do more for God. Meanwhile, she does what no one else can do quite like she does it.
Give Him Your Body
Some of us are not gifted socially, intellectually, or emotionally, but we are good with our hands. Like the carpenter, Joseph, we can use our physical strength for God.
The plant manager at our college can do anything with his hands, from bricklaying and concrete work, to auto repair and groundskeeping, all the while managing a computerized campus. When the president of the college is gone for a month, no one even notices, but if the plant manager were gone, the buildings would soon be cold, dark, and dirty.
And if the cook did not show up, there would be mass mutiny!
I went to a college basketball game where our team won a surprise victory over a formidable opponent. Everyone in the stands was jumping up and down, shouting “We won! We won!”
Excuse me? I wanted to say. Don’t you mean THEY won, the five guys on the floor who did the hard work?
But they were right. We all won: the team, the fans, the cheerleaders, students and parents, alumni and community . . . we all won because of the physical sweat of a few guys.
Mothers are in this category of underappreciated givers. They work with their hands behind closed doors, all day long. A television newsman decided to figure up how much the average housewife is worth, using the current rate of pay for each task mothers perform: cooking and cleaning, shopping, decorating, child care, financial management, phone work, counseling, and more. When he added it all up, he found the average housewife is worth about $134,000 a year!
Mothers, in the Day of Judgment, just show God your hands. I think he will understand.
Twelve Months of Christmas
There is no one gift I can give God, only at Christmas, that will fulfill all my obligations. But I can give God my mind, my heart, and my body daily, thereby making every day a kind of Christmas.
Daniel Schantz is professor emeritus at Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly, Missouri.