One of the most valuable gifts you can give this Christmas cannot be wrapped in shiny paper or placed in someone’s stocking. This gift cannot be used up, nor does it run out. The more you use this gift, the more you will have to keep. In fact, “re-gifting” this gift is a great idea. I’m speaking, of course, about the gift of friendship. I was invited this past weekend to First Baptist Church in Midland to do a book signing for my Felix Navidad story. I called my friend, Kay, last week and asked if I could “visit” her guest room for a night. She said yes, and made me feel like moving into her house and eating her food was a favor, for her! Now that is the spiritual gift of hospitality! When I went to put my things in her guest room, a bag of the best peanut brittle in the world was sitting by my pillow. Kay had remembered it was my favorite and made sure to have some for me.
I also saw another friend, Wanda, who has invited me to stay with her many times! When Wanda hugged me last Sunday I felt that I was wrapped up in the love of a special friend. These two amazing women helped me start my first Esther Sunday school department. Every week they would deliver a little plant and a loaf of banana-nut bread to each woman who had visited the class for the first time. They made the ladies feel welcome, loved and appreciated – and that Sunday school department grew quickly. There were many women who needed to know that someone cared. Kay and Wanda know how to be a good friend, and they are among the most giving people I know. All of us put a lot of effort into giving gifts each Christmas. Who will you give the very best gift to? Who will be thankful for your gift of friendship?
A version of the word “friend” is used 127 times in the Bible, and not always in a positive way. I wonder why Jesus didn’t speak that often on the subject of friendship? In fact, the Bible doesn’t have a great deal of teaching on friendship. But then again, maybe friendship is a natural result of a life lived closely with God, and there are thousands of verses about that. The Great Commandment teaches that if we love the Lord as we should, then we will naturally love others too – and that is the act of friendship. Have you ever noticed that the best “givers” of God’s love are the people who have learned how to walk closely with him? They have received the very gift they are now able to give. I’m grateful to God for those “regifters!”
I used to cringe a little bit when people talked about Jesus being their best friend. I never want to reduce the Triune God to an earthly relationship, but then again, God reduced himself to a baby in a manger. God is our best friend and more, whether he is an infant in a manger or a King on his heavenly throne. The choral anthem last Sunday in Midland had a profound line that I was compelled to jot down. The song spoke of the newborn Christ being “older than eternity.” I don’t want to ever see Jesus as less than God Incarnate. Jesus is a friend – and when we are a friend to others, we are more Christ-like.
We all have friends we love to give gifts to for Christmas. But who is it you will be a friend to? May I suggest your family think and pray about that question, and look around the church and the community. Wanda, Kay and I were privileged to serve the Esther department because our focus was often the women of the church who were unmarried, divorced, divorcing, widowed or married to someone who didn’t attend Sunday school. These women often felt alone in a couples class, alone in the pew and alone in their church community. You might be surprised how difficult it is for a single mom to provide Christmas for her children sometimes. And she wants her children to have the toys on their list, just like the kids have from the two-parent homes. She probably has a job, she probably looks like she is doing fine – and she probably could really use some quiet generosity to make the holiday a little easier. She needs a friend who will be Christ-like and give. Pause today to be thankful for those who have given you the gift of friendship. Then ask God to point out someone you can be a friend to. It is perfectly fine to “regift” friendship – over and over again.