Will they like it? Will it be enough? I wished I had more to give, and I held my breath, as I watched my family open gifts. Unforseen circumstances had eaten into the Christmas budget that year. We had a Charlie Brown type tree and had given a very few, hand-made presents that year. Would my family know how much I loved them?
Have you felt that way, too, that your gifts to your family, much less to God, were inadequate? Do you think you have next to nothing to give to God? No skills in singing or playing an instrument, no ability to speak in front of a crowd, no advanced education or intellectual talent, no fortune. We exchange gifts at Christmas, remembering the gifts given to the Christ child, but do you share the sentiments of the fictional drummer boy in the Christmas carol, “Little Drummer Boy?”
I have no gift to bring . . .
That’s fit to give the King . . .
But perhaps we all have something to give, after all, something that’s more important that we realize. Let me tell you about a gift that doesn’t have to be wrapped, won’t put a dent in your budget, and will certainly be remembered.
My church was blessed with a lovely woman named Wilma, who extended hugs and kisses to all during a time of greeting before worship service began. No one questioned the motivation of her “holy kisses,” one of the benefits of being a great-grandmother. When walking around the church foyer became difficult, she “held court” on a bench near the door to the fellowship hall, and we bent down to receive our hugs and kisses.
I miss Wilma. As her obituary noted, “she went home to be with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” at the age of ninety-five three years ago. Her son told me that she hugged and kissed everyone and always told them she loved them.
We all felt loved by Wilma and through her affection gained an inkling of how God must feel about us.
Some time ago, I took a photo of a plaque on a park bench in Glasgow. It said simply, “Express Love Clearly”. . . I was struck by how un-Scottish the sentiment seemed to be – the Scots are a reserved people, generally speaking. And I felt strongly that this is the most important thing: to express love clearly.
Wilma expressed her love clearly.
Another woman, eighty-three-year-old Elizabeth, is known as the “Hug Lady” of Ft. Hood (an Army base in Texas). She hugged every soldier as they left the base.
She is the last person they see before they are deployed to the battlefield, and hers are the first arms that embrace them when they return. Laird is there to hug each one of them, unfailingly, every single time.
Elizabeth is now on the receiving end of many hugs. She is battling breast cancer, and many of the soldiers she embraced have visited her in the hospital.
There is another example of someone generous with hugs and kisses: our Heavenly Father. In the story of the prodigal son, Jesus described how the father was filled with compassion and how he demonstrated it.
And he [the son] arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20 NIV
I understand expressions of physical affection may make some people uncomfortable (giving or receiving) and may not be suitable for all people. Shaking hands or a giving a pat on the shoulder might be more appropriate. Our pastor, acknowledging this reality, ends his messages on Sunday morning with “If you’re a hugger, hug. If you’re a shaker, shake.”
I grew up with the kind of reserve that Christine described as being typical of the Scottish. (Yes, there are many Scots in my family tree.)
But I’m sensing God working on my heart to be a little more like the Heavenly Father in the parable, and I’m thinking about the gift of affection that Wilma and Elizabeth so freely gave. With these wonderful examples, my reserved Scottish heart is learning to express love more clearly. So maybe I’ll “wrap” up some Xs and Os as Christmas presents this year. That’s a gift I think God will be pleased with, too.
* * * * *
photo of park bench and tulips by Barb Briggs
photo of park bench in snow by Rachel Nieuwsma