When we finally closed the store and got home, Christmas Eve was family time. We would eat, tell stories and open presents. My family is not much on hoopla. My parents grew up in the Great Depression, so money was never wasted. Every dollar spent had to have a purpose. If you gave a gift, the gift had better make sense.
So, the things on our Christmas lists were things we needed. This particular year, mom told me she needed a robe, and she told me exactly which robe she needed at J.C. Penney. I got her the robe. I bought it with my own money. It was a snazzy red, white and blue polyester robe -- classy but practical.
I wrapped it and put it under the tree. I had taken care of my Christmas shopping with my own money by driving to the mall by myself. I was becoming a man, and I took care of my own business.
Mom taught the senior adult ladies' Sunday School class at our church. She called the class "the DMA (Don't Mention Age) class," and they loved my mom. That Christmas, the ladies gave my mom a present. You guessed it: a robe. Not just any robe, mind you, a hand-embroidered, silk velour robe.
It was time to open our presents that Christmas Eve, and mom said, "Did you see what my Sunday School class gave me?" As she pulled the robe from its box, I felt my heart fall on the floor. My robe looked like the cheap, tacky polyester monstrosity it was.
What was I going to do? It was too late to run back to the mall and exchange it for something else. I dreaded the moment she opened my present. In fact, I pushed it back under the tree until it was the last present. I couldn't put off the moment any further. She opened it. I was mortified.
I told mom I had saved the receipt just like she had taught me if she wanted to exchange it. Then, mom did what only a mom can do. She knew just what to say. "Mike, the robe my Sunday School class gave me is beautiful, but you gave me a robe I can use every day. I can't cook or clean in that robe, but I can in the one you gave me."
I don't know if she meant it or if she was just trying to make me feel better. All I know is it worked. Every time I saw my mother wearing my robe I was proud I had given her something she could use.
Maybe Jesus is the same way. Maybe, like my mom, what Jesus really wants for Christmas is something He can use, not something extravagant. The apostle Paul tells us there are many kinds of vessels in a household. Some are exquisite and designed for particular purposes. Other vessels are for everyday use, and maybe that's us.
I love hearing missionary stories, but sometimes Jesus wants someone who'll go to the hospital and visit a sick friend rather than a country across the ocean. We want to give exorbitant cathedrals and buildings to better reflect His glory, and what He really wants is for us to buy a cup of coffee for a friend who's broken, confused and trying to find his way home.
Maybe this Christmas, Jesus wants a gift He can use -- someone who will minister in the ordinary moments of everyday life. We all want to give something He'll never forget, and He won't if we give Him something He'll use every day.
Mike Glenn is pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tenn. In January, Glenn will begin serving as executive editor of Mature Living, where this article first appeared. His blog is mikeglennonline.com.
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