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Some Gifts Are Not Always What They Seem

December 15, 2007
By The Rev. Douglas Jenkins, Davis Memorial Presbyterian Church, Elkins
    Gifts sometimes come disguised. The huge box with pretty paper and curly bows is opened, just to reveal another, smaller wrapped box inside. The little card in an envelope fastened to the Christmas tree reveals a magazine subscription or tells of a package delayed in shipping.

    Robert Fulghum, author of the book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” tells of a time when his then 7-year-old daughter gave him a lunch sized paper bag to take to work with him. Since it was ... sealed with duct tape, staples and several paper clips ... he could not check its contents. When he asked about what was inside, his daughter told him it contained some stuff that she wanted him to take with him.

    Fulghum says that when lunch time came around, he grabbed the sack his daughter had given him and tried his best to get through the formidable closure. Well, he discovered it wasn’t lunch! The bag contained ... two hair ribbons, three small stones, a plastic dinosaur, a pencil stub, a tiny seashell, two animal crackers, a marble,  a used lipstick, a small doll, two chocolate kisses and 13 pennies.  He said that he pondered this collection of items for a bit, then swept them off his desk into the trash.

    When he arrived home that evening, he was met at the door by the daughter, asking for her bag of treasures. It seems that this mish-mash of items in the paper sack were her keepsakes, physical memories of past events and people whom she loved. Fulghum was horrified by the thought of his daughter discovering he had tossed her treasure away. So he lied. He told her that he left the bag at the office and he would return with them tomorrow evening. Of course, he had to get back right then, before the business’ cleaning crew emptied the trash. That harried father immediately returned and reclaimed the  items, straightened out the bag as best he could, re-filling it with its “precious” cargo.

    The next evening, as promised, Fulghum delivered the bag back to his daughter. He asked her what the items in the sack where all about; and in the next hour and a half she gave the reason each bit of “stuff” was included in her special assemblage. Fulghum’s daughter entrusted him with her collection out of love and trust, wanting him to have a part of her with him that day.

    What “gifts” have we discounted and discarded? Have we been entrusted with a “treasure” we did not appreciate as much as the giver?

    Although you might think this missive is about smiling and making “ooh” and “ahh” sounds at Christmas gifts that don’t “fit” us for whatever reason, think again.

    This is about the greatest treasure, the gift of salvation offered in the life, death and resurrection of the child whose birthday we “celebrate”  at Christmas. This is a reminder to go search the trash can into which we swept our memories of the Sunday School Nativity Pageant, singing “Silent Night” while holding a lit candle inches from our face, the Bible stories and sermons which once stirred our hearts. It is about reclaiming those “items” of God’s love and hope which our grandparents, parents and friends entrusted with us. You are invited to come to Davis Memorial Presbyterian Church, or any Christian church in this Advent season, to be re-introduced to the meaning behind the gift, the gift entrusted to us.

    (Editor’s Note: The opinions of this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Inter-Mountain, the Randolph County Ministerial Association or the author’s church affiliation.)



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