Monday, December 19, 2011

I Love Presents

“…Based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve others…”
1 Peter 4:7-11

I can vividly remember Christmas eve 1989.  I was six years old and there was more of a chance of newly elected president George Bush cleaning up all 240,000 barrels of oil from the Exxon Valdez with a shop-vac than me getting any sleep that night.  I was too excited.  I love presents.
Go ahead, ask anyone in my family.  Receiving presents and the excitement of a surprise has led me to start counting down the days to Christmas beginning as early as October.  Some call it a disease; I call it “misappropriated fervor”. 
Christmas morning 1989 I remember lying in bed checking the clock every thirty minutes from 3am to 7am hoping Santa Clause had come, done his deed, and I could leave my room and snoop.  Finally, the time came and I quickly hopped out of bed in my one-piece PJ’s (the kind with the feet attached).  Rounding the corner to the living room I saw the tree lit up in all its splendor; presents everywhere.  Red and green wrapping paper packages reflected the blinking lights of the tree.  I love presents.
That morning my sister unwrapped an art easel, I am sure some clothes, and many other things I didn’t care about.  I unwrapped many presents that morning too, however, I remember only one.  Six years prior to that Christmas Nintendo had rocked the electronic world with their NES system (we know it as the original Nintendo).  This morning the six-year ripple effect in the pool of the gaming world had made it to my life.  I took hold of the box, ripped off the paper, and revealed in all its majesty my Nintendo.
That is how I define a gift.  Something not from me, but absolutely for me.  Mine to keep, cherish, horde, and bring me happiness.  My, how differently scripture defines “gift”.  1 Peter 4:10 tells us that gifts received are to be given away in service to others.  What?  But its mine!?  I was specifically thought of when someone gave me that gift and you are suggesting I need to use it to serve someone else?  Yuck, but true.
This advent season admit that you were probably born on third base but you did not hit a triple.  You have been given so much and none of it is by your own doing.  “But I believe in the American Dream that I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps and look at how successful I am now.”  Where would you be without the breath God put in your lungs?  Did you choose not to have a mental illness that would keep you in a different reality?  Did you choose to be smart, level headed, gifted with music, business, typing, teaching, science, or writing skills?  In humility, recognize God’s gifts of grace in your life, be thankful, and for God’s sake give it away in service to others.

This was my entry for December 17th in our church Advent devotional guide.  Have a merry Christmas and be with those you love.
Joey Armstrong


  1. Great post Joey. I feel the same way about gifts exactly, and it makes it harder having my birthday so close to Christmas! But I really cherish your words here. Thank you.
    - Aurelia