Monday, November 30, 2015

Receiving the Undeserved Gift

I scrambled up to the first couch cushion and dutifully obeyed my mother’s little rhyme:

“Open your hands and close your eyes and I will give you a big surprise.”

Meanwhile on the middle couch cushion, long after I had settled myself, my little sister wriggled off the couch and then climbed back up again. I didn’t dare open my eyes to see the spectacle, but I could feel it.  And without looking, I knew she hadn’t even closed her eyes!

Now I use that little rhyme on my couch.
Which of these little monkeys
do you suppose deserved a gift?
I was irritated by her unrestrained glee, because she wasn’t doing it right. And I didn’t think she really deserved a gift.

I, on the other hand, was doing it right. And I wasn't going to merely receive a gift. I was going to deserve it.

And yet, every time our mother said the little rhyme, we both received a gift simply because it was our mother’s great pleasure to give.

Last December I had big plans to celebrate Advent right. To get quiet. To lead my kids through their Advent calendar. To read my Christmas devotional. To prepare.

I started strong, and for a while I did Advent “right.” Then we added to our Advent celebration by worshiping Christ at programs, performances, and parties all over town.

But all our celebrating led to a string of late bedtimes. I fell behind on my reading. My kids fought about whose turn it was to open the Advent calendar, and I worried I wouldn’t experience Christ’s presence during “the most wonderful time of the year” because I wasn’t doing Advent right!

But the Gift of Christ’s coming was never based on our performance.

God gave us the gift of Christ because He wanted to.

 “His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to!” {Ephesians 1:5, TLB}

It was His pleasure to rescue us from having to earn a place in His family, and to this day He is still rescuing performers from working to earn His gifts.

“Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.” {Romans 4:4-5, NIV}

His gifts cannot be earned. And incredibly our shameless, open-handed receiving is counted as righteousness!

So if the Christmas craft--which looked far easier in the video--reminds you that Christmas cheer isn’t dependent on your decorations, receive it as a gift of His presence.

When the company Christmas party, which you’d rather skip, presents a natural opportunity to bring Christ into conversation, receive it as a gift of His presence.

And if you find yourself wiping tears at another Christmas program where tender little voices sing Away in a Manger, receive it as a gift of His presence.

These undeserved gifts are indications of His presence. Reminders that in the hush and in the hustle, He is still Immanuel.

God with us.

The grandest surprise of all.


  1. That's beautiful, Shauna. As usual, you are "right on!" Thank you for helping us see Jesus in unconventional situations.

    1. Thanks for reading, Kay. I tried to remember this while I wrestled the tree stand for way too long trying to get it level :)

  2. So appreciate the way you open your heart for God to gift others with His truth in such candid ways! !!

    1. Thanks for your encouraging words, Dear Friend!