An African boy listened carefully as his missionary teacher explained why Christians give presents to each other on Christmas day. “The gift is an expression of our joy over the birth of Jesus and our love for each other,” she said.
When Christmas day came, the boy brought to the teacher a seashell of lustrous beauty. “Where did you ever find such a beautiful shell?” the teacher asked as she held the gift up to the light.The young boy told her that there was only one spot where such extraordinary shells could be found. When he named the place, a certain bay several miles away, the teacher was left speechless.
“Why…why, it’s gorgeous…wonderful, but you shouldn’t have gone all that way to get a gift for me.”
His eyes brightening, the boy answered, “Long walk part of gift.” **
I love this story.
It perfectly illustrates that going the extra mile is the most precious gift of all.
I don’t know about you, but my heart has been extra tender this Advent. When that happens, at any time of the year, it usually means God is urging me to grow in a particular area of my life.
Does that ever happen to you? He turns up the heat, stirs the emotions and pushes us to grow. It’s possible to ignore, especially during this busy time of year, but I have learned to lean in and listen when God is speaking – most of the time, anyway. 🙂
Our son Grant moved to Chicago in December a few years back – just in time for a polar vortex, sub-freezing temperatures and a ton of snow. He wasn’t really prepared for such weather, and his commute to work was a three-block walk from his new apartment. Needless to say, our Christmas gifts for him that year included all manner of outerwear.
I was so concerned about him that it almost became an obsession to find the just the right things that would keep him warm in such extreme cold.
I was a mom on a mission!
I scoured the LL Bean Catalog, Cabela’s and other stores to find sub-zero clothing for the brutal Chicago weather. That stuff is expensive!
I shopped sales, used coupons and was able to get him taken care of without breaking the bank. It took some extra time and effort, but what a relief to know my boy had good quality gear to keep him warm.
And so, as the Lord has been working on me this Advent, He brought the memory of Grant’s first winter in Chicago to mind.
And then, almost immediately, came the challenge: Every year I donate items such as hats, gloves, scarves and blankets to the homeless. Have I ever taken so much time and care to find the same quality gifts for them?
Have I been as concerned about one who actually lives on the street as I was for a very well-cared for son who walks three blocks from one warm place to another?
Have I scoured the catalogs, used coupons and shopped sales in order to find the best gifts that I can afford?
Has it ever become an obsession and a mission to find things that will really keep a person warm?
Do I give away the same quality of gifts as I give to my own family?
If I am being honest, my answer would be sometimes – but not nearly enough. And this Advent, He is impressing on me to do more. Not necessarily to spend more, but to make more of an effort and to treat those who are in need as well as I treat my own family. In other words – to make the long walk part of the gift.
And here’s the thing – the recipient may never know about the long walk, but it doesn’t matter and it’s not the point. As the missionary teacher told the little boy, “The gift is an expression of our joy over the birth of Jesus and our love for each other.”
So, if we are joyful over the birth of Jesus and truly love people, the long walk will become the most precious gift of all.
‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ Matthew 25:40
** The story is attributed to Norman Vincent Peale