Summary: Christmas Eve. Focus: Jesus is the gift of Christmas.

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A professor of mine from seminary told us this story: When he was a young man, all of 23, he had the opportunity to take a summer tour of Europe as a graduation present, he was from a well to do family. He traveled about Europe by train, boat and sometimes by bicycle. Finally he ended up on the beaches of France where he was determined to spend the rest of the summer. His parents, who had paid for his trip, insisted that he stop by to see relatives in Switzerland. This was the last place that he wanted to go, he wanted to stay at the beach. But his mother would not let up, she insisted that he visit the relatives in Switzerland, and she warned him to make a good impression. So, reluctantly, he took the train to the Alps.

He had spent all of his money on having fun at the beach and as a consequence he only had three dollars left in his pocket when he had arrived in his relative’s town. He knew he needed to make a good impression or his mother would be livid, and perhaps call him home before the summer was up. As he walked into town he looked in the store windows to see what he could buy for three dollars to make a good impression for his mother. As he walked, he realized it was hopeless, he had spent all of his money at the beach and there was no way he could afford anything of value as a gift for his relatives. As he pondered his situation, a beautiful young woman caught his eye, she was working in a fine crystal shop. He immediately went into the store, even though he knew he could not afford anything in the store.

Forgetting about his dire situation, he began to flirt with the young woman making her laugh – and she promptly dropped a very expensive crystal bowl breaking it into three pieces. The owner of the shop yelled at the young woman who fled into the back of the store crying. It was then, that that the young man realized his hopeless situation was now solved. He purchased the broken bowl for three dollars and asked the shop owner to gift wrap the bowl.

Upon his arrival at his relative’s house, he fake tripped through the doorway, and dropped the gift wrapped box to the ground. Everyone was taken back. He picked up the present apologizing for his clumsiness, but knowing his time at the beach would now be extended. He gave the banged up box to his aunt who opened the box finding a beautiful crystal bowl, broken into three pieces – and each piece was individually wrapped in white tissue paper.

The young man’s gift, was a gift of obligation. It certainly was not heartfelt, it was an attempt to satisfy his parents, nagging, to get the deed done, and move on to what he really wanted out of life.

Have you had to buy a gift this year out of obligation? For someone you work with, or maybe a neighbor. Sometimes buying an obligatory gift is just a part of life isn’t it? I find those are the hardest kind of gifts to buy. I have such a hard time deciding…I think that is because the gift is not really heartfelt.

I once worked with a guy who would, every year, place a call to a local florist on Christmas Eve and order two gift baskets, one for his teenage daughter and one for his wife. It was a quick call, lasting about twenty five seconds. The florist would always ask what he wanted in the baskets and he would reply, “Whatever adds up to $250”. His Christmas shopping done, he could get back to his own self absorbed world.

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