Thursday, December 12, 2013

What Gift Do You Bring?

by Andrew Cromwell

During the Christmas season we are always concerned about gifts. We make our lists and check them twice. We try to make sure no one is forgotten and everyone gets something. We study the ads like bloodhounds on a scent and then head out with our little plastic cards to make our purchases.

But the older we get, the less concerned we become about what gifts will be received and focus instead on the gifts that are given. We want to give gifts that are meaningful. It is not just about how much we spend, but rather on the value that we communicate. Meaningful gifts are aimed at the heart, not just at the head or the pocketbook.

Generally, when we think about Christmas and gifts and Scripture, it is the story of the wise men that is retold. These wise guys were smart enough to track Jesus down as a young child and they brought Him gifts of great value.

But there is another story that is, I think, even more poignant. This tale of gift-giving occurred not at the beginning of Jesus’ time here on earth, but at its end. Three of the gospels tell us how just before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, Jesus was at Simon the Leper’s house.

Jesus was sitting by the table and, as always, there was a crowd of people around Him. The disciples were there as well as others who were sitting at His feet and listening to Him teach. A woman was there who was known to have a questionable background. This was not in any way out of the ordinary because Jesus was always surrounded by people who were down and out. He had a way of making people who had taken the worst of turns in their lives feel loved and accepted. This woman was no different.

But then something happened that was out of the ordinary and because of it, Matthew, Mark and Luke all made a special note about it in their account of Jesus’ life. This woman began to cry. And as she cried her tears fell on Jesus’ feet. So abundant were her tears that she then used her hair to wipe away her tears and thus wash Jesus’ feet. But then she went further and pulled out an expensive bottle of perfume (worth a year’s wages) and poured it over His feet and then over His head.

The disciples were mortified. First of all, this woman who had a sordid past had touched Jesus. Second, the woman had taken the perfume (which she most likely obtained from a sugar daddy as a gift) and had wasted it by dumping it out, when it could have been sold and the proceeds used to feed the poor.

But Jesus saw this gift differently. He could see the woman’s heart. He perceived her sorrow for her sin and her desire for forgiveness. And He honored her for it because by her act she had prepared Him for His own burial in just a few days.

The woman brought that which was of greatest value to her and poured it out on Jesus’ feet. This gift moved the very heart of God. And I believe, the gift of greatest value was not the perfume, but her tears that were an expression of heart seeking the forgiveness of the Master.

What gift are you planning on bringing to Jesus this season? There is no greater gift than to bring your heart -- even if it’s ugly, bruised and broken. Psalms 51:17 says, “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”

Jesus never rejects a repentant heart for it is the gift He finds of greatest value. He is not looking for perfect hearts, for perfect hearts have no need of Him. He is not looking for proud hearts, for proud hearts laugh at what He offers. He is looking for broken hearts. Hearts that have been beat up by life, that have chosen the wrong path, that have tried the other way and come up short. These are the hearts He does His best work with.

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