What Gift Shall I Bring?by Dr. Dan Stolebarger
This year, why not find some time during the Holiday Season to give the Lord the one gift, the one unique gift that only you can give, the one special gift that no one else could ever duplicate…
’Tis the season!
There is no getting around the fact that Christmas is a time of giving, and I absolutely love to give gifts, especially to my family. I am always reminded of the following verse from the Gospel of Matthew:
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
— Matthew 7:11
The older I get, the more I love to give. How about you? This past year our family expanded with two new additions to our family. I absolutely adore all of my grandchildren and this year we got our first little girl … a Stolebarger first! It seems I had better start the “gift gathering” as soon as possible! Oh, what joy!
I remember when our sons were very young. For days they would see the gifts under the tree and you could feel their excitement growing each day as they would examine the brightly-wrapped packages, picking up and examining each gift that bore their name. As their anticipation grew, so did my joy, knowing how excited they would be with a Transformer, or Bert and Ernie, or a new bike. I’m a dad, I’m their Abba! I want to give them good gifts.
I am sure this is true of all: the picking out of the right gift is not always easy! I have become obsessed with picking out at least one gift for each of my kids, their wives, my wife, and grandbabies … seeking to find the perfect gift!
As the quiver grows larger I must begin this process earlier than usual but the thought comes to me … what gift shall I give My King this year? Don’t I want His “gift” to be even more perfect than the ones I choose for my earthly family?
Let me invite you on my journey as I search for the perfect gift for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the true reason for this season! It seems the Prophet Micah had this dilemma as well. Take a look at his words:
With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
— Micah 6:6–8
Wow, what a gift to bring to Yeshua this year: justice, mercy and humility. One thing that is noteworthy is that in order to present these particular gifts to Jesus, they must be given to others! Who in your life can you work for justice, and to whom can you give mercy? Finally, who is God calling you to serve with humility? I think I will add these “gifts” to my list, but there has got to be more!
As I walk through the “mall” in my mind, I come to the gifts of Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar (better known as the Magi), and I think of the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. What great gifts for the King of Kings! Gold, surely a gift worthy for a King. Frankincense, a sweet aroma for a Priest, and of course the somber gift of Myrrh for our once-and-for-all sacrificed Passover lamb. These all are great gifts and need to be part of our offerings to the lover of our souls. But for me there is still something missing, something else out there which I am looking for.
As I continue my search, I remember the greatest of all the commandments according to Yeshua, that being the Shema. As I begin to recite this passage, I have a sense that I am getting closer, getter warmer in regards to my perfect gift this year.
Let me remind you of this great commandment. Do you remember when Jesus was asked this question by a scribe? In His answer Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
— Matthew 22:36–40
Let’s take some time to camp out here and do a little digging. To love God with all of our strength reminds me of the gifts of the Magi. The Hebrew word for strength is ma’od and this word contains all of the following: might, force and abundance. For the Jewish sages this referred to all of your physical and earthly resources. Does God deserve all that I have? Of course! Does He require it of me, or does He set forth the conditions of a tithe and the giving of offerings? We need to remember that the tithe is the Lord’s and He does not want our leftovers but seeks our first fruits! Okay, but still I think I want to give something more this year!
Next in the Shema we read about the mind and the soul. The Hebrew word for this is Nephesh. In Hebrew thought, a person is a unity of different parts: the mind (where the deep inner thoughts from within our personalities reside) as well as the physical body, which contains the blood, organs, etc. In other words, Nephesh is the unity of both of these and essentially makes up the whole of a person as a being.
But there is still more to this concept. Inherent in the makeup of this word is the image of breathing. The sages remind us that life comes to us as God breathes into us the breath of life, and death simply comes when we breathe our last breath.
The intensity of loving God with your Nephesh can be likened to when you have the wind knocked out of you and you begin to gasp for air!
For me, because of my football background, I have this vivid memory of an injury most all of us have experienced at one time in our lives. Have you ever had the wind knocked out of you? No big deal … right? But that’s because it came back. Do you remember the panic you experienced in gasping for that breath? Nothing will satisfy you except that refreshing breath of life! This year may we offer all of our mind and soul to Him as well as our strength!
But wait, I think I have found what I am looking for … the perfect gift for my deserving Lord. The best for last! This year I will give Him my heart.
Again let’s look at the Hebrew. The word for heart is lev’av and the Jewish sages of old interpret the heart as a metaphor for the seat of craving and aspiration. In other words, the lev’av is the gut and it is where passion resides. It is also known to be where the seat of appetite, emotion and courage resides.
The giving of the heart makes all the difference in the world. Yes, our minds and intellect are crucial, but too often we can become just academic, resembling a computer-like machine. And yes, we need to give back to Him from the gifts He has given us, but I think we all know that material gifts are limited!
True love requires the giving of one’s heart! Just to bring this point home, let me speak to all of you who are in a marital relationship. Can you imagine the response you would get when you have that intimate moment and whisper: “Honey, after all these years my love for you has grown so much; today I love you with over half my heart!”
Can you imagine the response you would get? I have one word for you … duck! Either that or get ready for a season of silence!
This year, why not find some time during the Holiday Season to give the Lord the one gift, the one unique gift that only you can give, the one special gift that no one else could ever duplicate…give Him your passion and your heart!