My birthday, is tomorrow. I don’t know about you, but I love birthdays. And I hate them. When it comes to my birthday I mourn that another year is gone and I am another step closer to being old and gray. If you were to have found me on my 20th birthday you would have found me relenting that “half of my good years are over!” (I know now that that is not entirely true).
If you were to have found me a week out from any given birthday in the last two years you would find me pestering my husband. “Did you buy my birthday present yet?” “What did you get me!!” “Do you have it hiding in your car!” I hate surprises. It also doesn’t help that the relationship I had before James I was completely spoiled and usually got my birthday presents a week early because of all my persistent asking. Then, feeling guilty, the guy would also buy me another birthday present on my birthday.
Fortunately for me, James is more stubborn than that, and I love him dearly for it. But I still hate surprises, I hate waiting. Good thing I really, really love presents.
When Christmas comes around I feel myself wanting to run down the stairs in my pajamas and spring upon the presents right along with my nieces and nephews. Sadly, as one gets older it feels like we are supposed to get less excited about presents. As we get older we are expected to keep our composure and accept our presents graciously and with genuine thanks. So I sit on the couch and I wait and I smile and I nod and I say “Thank You”. No springing upon the presents and tearing off the wrapping paper viciously for this sophisticated lady.
In the grade school years I would get birthday cards not only from my grandparents, but also from my aunts and uncles and family friends. In high school I saw less and less cards and even less now as one of my grandma’s has more grandchildren and great-grandchildren than she can keep track of.
Now, when we invite people over for my birthday their gift is a side dish to share with the meal. There are no bows and wrapping paper strewn about. Just extra plates and glasses for me to wash after the guests have gone home. And that in itself is fine. I love great company, riveting conversation, and some good laughs more than anything that could come wrapped in a box.
It just baffles me how I feel presents are supposed to be less needed and less important as we grow up. We give them less. We receive them less. I am not sure why this happens, all I know is that from what I have seen, it just does.
However, I hope that we never forget that God still gives us gifts. I am not talking about any small consolation prize either. He gives us more than we can ever imagine. He gives us so much that we often don’t expect it and sometimes have a hard time even accepting it.
I was reminded of this today as a birthday card and a rose appeared on my desk. I felt so loved. Not only because I have no expectations from a work place to help me celebrate my birthday, but also because the front of my card read,
“God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance . . .” 2 Corinthians 9:8.
2 Corinthians 9 is part of Paul’s letter to Achaia about their promised gift, donation, to the church in Macedonia. This chapter is encouraging generosity, as a little more of the context around my card’s verse shows.
“6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
God will bless me more than I can even imagine, but I have to remember that as much as I like receiving gifts, I must love giving them as well. When I am worried about money or not having enough, I have to remember that God will take care of me. And when that offering plate comes around at church, I must remember that this money that I do have is part of God’s blessing, He is only asking that we use some of it to do His work, to give just a portion back to him.
I love have Paul ends this section of his letter. The whole chapter talks about how we must give, and of course in doing so we will be blessed. The last words however are this “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”
He doesn’t thank the Achaians for their promised gift, he doesn’t thank us for being good givers. He tells us to give and then thanks God for the gifts that he has given us. When the days come when you feel poor, when the moments come when you feel like you have nothing, remember that we are blessed with gifts from God. He has given us an indescribable blessing. This life. His Son. Salvation. Grace . . . the list goes on and on.
The Message paraphrases this passage with much excitement and gusto!
“8-11 God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done . . .
This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.
12-15 Carrying out this social relief work involves far more than helping meet the bare needs of poor Christians. It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God. This relief offering is a prod to live at your very best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the Message of Christ. You show your gratitude through your generous offerings to your needy brothers and sisters, and really toward everyone. Meanwhile, moved by the extravagance of God in your lives, they’ll respond by praying for you in passionate intercession for whatever you need. Thank God for this gift, his gift. No language can praise it enough!”