“Oh, he would LOVE this one!” My son held the gift close to his chest. He raced from display to display to find the perfect gift.
“I want to get him this too. And this.”
“Well, it’s not in your budget, so choose just one.”
The assistant stocking the shelves glanced over her shoulder with a smile at his exuberance.
The experience was similar with each child. They darted around the store to find the gift they knew their brothers would love. They raced home to wrap and place it under the tree. They talked about how they can’t wait to see the look on their faces when they give their gifts.
Loving the giving spirit I saw, I took it a step further.
The first brother down for breakfast opened the advent door and read the note hidden inside. Another brother read it and tossed it aside moving about his morning routine. Another brother arrived to discover the advent activity read, “Do something kind or give something in secret for someone else.”
The lack of enthusiasm echoed loud around the kitchen table. Where was the exuberance I saw only days ago? Who stole their excitement?
Then I got it. Part of their excitement was the anticipation of the moment their brother opened the gift specially selected for them. The longing for the lit up eyes, plastered smile, and possibly a few squeals or jumps.
Part of the excitement is a desire to please another person, but part of the excitement is laced with a desire to find favor, to gain approval, acceptance, or special standing in their eyes. Not all gift giving is favor driven, but if we are honest, sometimes it is.
I saw it in my boys when there was no excitement over doing a kind act or giving a gift where there was no chance of them receiving favor. They wouldn’t see the lit up eyes, wouldn’t hear the squeals of delight possibly.
Maybe they would. But more than that, their brother might not give the credit where credit was due. The sought favor may never be.
Luke 1:28-30 And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you. But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. Then the angel told her: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”
How had Mary found the favor of God? Mary was a simple girl. A humble girl. A girl who loved God and devoted her life to following Him. But what had she done so special to receive God’s favor?
Isaiah 66:2 tells us the kind of person God favors:
“My hand made all these things and so they all came into being. This is the Lord’s declaration. I will look favorably on this kind of person: one who is humble, submissive in spirit, and trembles at my word.”
The blessing with our gifts and the desire to receive favor bleed into each other. We can start with a desire to bless others at Christmas, but it’s not hard to begin to seek their favor. To work to impress others, to receive their approval and acceptance.
We can want to give the best gifts, to have the best decorations, to prepare the best foods in an effort to impress others and earn their favor.
But the person God favors is the one of humble position. The one that seeks not to impress man, but the one who submits to God and trembles at His word.
Luke 1:18 because He has looked with favor on the humble condition of His slave. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.
Better than the favor of man is to be called blessed by man because the favor of the Lord shone on our lives.
May this Christmas season we take note from Mary, a simple girl with a humble heart. Let’s lay aside our striving for the favor of man, move to the back of the line, take the lowliest position of humility and long for the favor of the Lord instead.
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