We’re having seminary students and their spouses over for a Christmas party this week. Every one is supposed to bring a White Elephant gift for the gift exchange. A White Elephant gift is something you are more than happy to re-gift. Something trivial or tacky. A gift that is truly “more blessed to give than to receive.”
Several years ago, I heard a poem about a lanyard by Billy Collins, a Poet Laureate from the United States. He talks about making a lanyard and giving it to his mother.
The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room. . .
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.
I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips. . .
and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor. . .
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.
I may give someone a lanyard at our Christmas party this week. But I don’t want to give one to Jesus this year. I do want to have a gift ready for Jesus this Christmas. It is, after all, His birthday celebration.
To select the right gift for Jesus, I’m taking some pointers from some very wise men—the Wise Men we read about in Matthew 2:1-11. They gave gifts to Jesus that were genuine treasures: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Their gifts involved considerable effort—they traveled hundreds of miles to present them. Their gifts came from worshipping hearts; Matthew 2:11 tells us that as they presented their gifts, “they bowed down and worshipped him.”
So I want to give Jesus something that I treasure, a gift that costs me something, a gift that comes from a worshipping heart. A lanyard simply won’t do.
And regardless of the gift I bring to Him, one thing is for sure: my gift will not “make us even.” My gift will only be a small thank you to the One who is God’s “indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).
What are you giving to Jesus this Christmas?