A long time ago, the Christian author, Gary Chapman, penned an important book, entitled “The Five Love Languages.” He noted that every person communicates and perceives love in one or more ‘languages.’ These languages include physical touch and closeness, acts of service, gift giving, encouraging words, and quality time. Think about that for a moment. How do you communicate and perceive love? What love language is your native tongue? Perhaps you are multi-lingual when it comes to these love languages. My mother-in-law was like this. She spoke every one of these languages fluently, but her lingua franca was without a doubt, gift giving.
Her love of gift giving was prodigious. It would be an understatement to say that she sometimes went over the top. Especially when grandchildren were involved. She was always thinking of just the apt gift. Throughout the year, whenever someone expressed a need or desire, she would purchase and wrap their heart’s desire and tuck it away in somewhere in her house. There are probably still hidden gifts wrapped and tucked away at MaMa’s. While Santa has to be told what children want, MaMa always knew. Her radar always detected exactly what would satisfy the longing hearts of her beloved.
But gift giving for her was not merely apt selection and presentation. She created a whole dramatic narrative surrounding the giving of gifts. Her true aim was to create joy. She delighted to delight. She needed to be present when the gifts were opened so that she might rejoice with the joy of the receiver. She needed to hear the squeals, see the surprise, and sense the gratitude. That was, for her, the gift received in the giving of gifts. Her greatest desire was to bring joy to others. Gifts graciously received were her greatest delight.
Christmas after Christmas, I saw, shining through the life of my mother-in-law, the heart of a Heavenly Father, who gives the gift of His Son that we might find true and abiding joy. Like my mother-in-law, our Heavenly Father delights to hear and see and receive our gratitude in response to His grace. In Luke 15, in the midst of three parables about being lost and found, Jesus twice notes that, “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Many stories in the Bible illustrate this, but no story pictures this as powerfully as that of the announcement of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds in Luke 2:8-20. Here as the Lord of glory is born into quiet obscurity the only announcement is given to shepherds, the most despised and outcast class of society. These enigmatic shepherds were the most unlikely of converts — men who were notoriously under suspicion, who were rejected from temple worship due to their habitual and ritual uncleanness, and whose word was not acceptable in the courts. If anyone had hope to receive God’s goodwill and favor because of their works it was not these men. Yet these were the men to whom God announced, “for unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Unto “you!” No one gave these men anything, but unto them God had given a savior!
Their response is a powerful testimony to the joy that comes when the hopeless find hope. They urgently flee Christ. Finding him, they tell everyone they meet then return to their sheep glorifying and praising God. These unlikely converts exhibit the joy of a changed life. Their priorities, their conversation, and their way of life are radically transformed. Their circumstances did not change, but they were changed in the middle of their circumstances. Men who were outcasts with God and man, were now Sons of the Most High and the first human evangelists. Their joy was uncontained and unrestrained.
Do you have that kind of joy? If not, perhaps it is because you have not experienced the grace of receiving. God has offered you a great gift. He delights for you to receive it and find joy. Join us this Lord’s Day, December 22, as we examine the story of the shepherds in Luke 2 and consider how finding Jesus changes our lives and brings joy. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions. Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.