I think that most of us would agree that life has many challenges, but is also full of blessings and gifts, both great and small. Sometimes we can get stuck on looking at life’s challenges and problems and forget the good stuff. Many, if not most of us have gotten stuck in depression and morose thinking at some point in life. Even secular psychologists admit that one of the best cures to depression that is not clinical is to count one’s blessings and to cultivate a grateful heart.

Today, I was at a ladies Christmas party in one of our supporting churches. I love spending time in Charity Chapel because though many churches support missions, this church supports missionaries. Everyone is so friendly and kind hearted. Few can escape fellowship there with an angry or grumbling spirit! As I walked home, feeling so blessed, I began to think of all the gifts God has showered on me…

At 60, I have a perspective in life which I didn’t always have in my younger years. For one thing, as much as I love to receive a gift, I realize that the best gifts are those that are not material…good health, a vocation I love, parents, whose love though imperfect, I never had to question. A sister who has always been a best friend to me, both growing up and even now, though we live thousands of miles apart. Brothers who…well, you know how brothers are to a girl. You love and are proud of them one moment, then want to kick them in the teeth the next. They are gifts nevertheless. Friends, some of whom have come and gone, and others who stick around for a lifetime. A high school sweetheart who 40 years later is still the one man in the world I would pick to marry. Three children, now all grown, who were the best kids in the world and are now wonderful men and woman of God. Daughters in law, better ones I could not possibly have chosen for our sons. Now a new son in law, who is one of the most sensitive and attentive young men I’ve met. Two grand kids who are truly grand…so sweet and so smart. I can hardly wait to spend Christmas week with them. Yes, I have been given many gifts in this life and truly the best are not material things.

But this Christmas season, as I muse on all the wonderful gifts God has lavished on me, I always come around to this one greatest of gifts…life in Jesus. When I think how God gave up His only son to die in my place so that I may have eternal life, it still boggles my mind, still fills me with such humble gratitude. But not only do I anticipate living with Christ forever, but He even promises abundant life right now, here on this earth. The scriptures say “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5: 8). When I keep my spiritual eyes open, I do see Him. I see His hand prints everywhere on my life in all the blessings, and I feel His strengthening presence in all life’s trials.

So, this Christmas, let not “Jesus is the reason for the season” and “Christ is the greatest gift” be just clichés, to us. Let’s take some time to reflect on all the blessings in our lives and consider the hardest gift ever to give -when God gave His son to die – and the most precious for us to receive – a restored relationship with God and let us truly celebrate!

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