Every year as a kid, my mom got us Advent calendars, you know, the kind with little doors that have the most unnatural chocolate treats behind them. I loved them! It was all that was within me not to open doors in advance to eat the chocolate. (It may or may not have happened a few times). It was a fun tradition that carried on with me as I grew up. Now I have the very grown up version of the calendar that I put up each year and move the little snowflake marker as each day ticks down towards Christmas.
A number of years ago, I came up with a new plan. I decided to do “Advent gifts” for a couple of my closest friends. I went and got new gym bags (which was Dec 1st’s gift) then proceeded to fill the bag with 23 other little gifts, all wrapped and labelled for what day they were to be opened. As someone who loves to give gifts, I loved every day! I’ve been able to continue to do this for quite a number of years, sometimes not the whole 24 days (depending on my budget) but in some way or another.
However, this year it just wasn’t possible. I barely had money for gifts, let alone to do advent gifts. I was truly bummed. It’s not a big deal, and my friends don’t think I love them any less, but it was always such a joy to find little things that were unique to them, or inside jokes between us to show that I was thinking of them and how much I love them. So to say I was disappointed was an understatement.
I spent some time with the Lord at the end of November asking why He was keeping things so tight that I couldn’t spend money on this? He knows how much I love to do it to bless others. And so I complained to Him that I couldn’t bless my friends the way I wanted to this year. Inevitably, when I’m in this sort of heart condition, the Lord has to smack me upside the head. I had started to memorize Matthew 6 in an effort to trust Him more, and as I was going through it on November 30th, the thought struck me that I am only giving out of what God’s given to me. Those gifts aren’t really from me, they are from Him. He provided every penny. It was a passing thought that I didn’t spend much time on. However, the Lord wasn’t done teaching me.
The next day, December 1st, was our final wrap up to our women’s Bible study, and doesn’t one of the ladies walk in with a big yard rake and hand it to Kelsey and say, “I heard you needed this”. We laughed, she thanked her (Kelsey and her husband had just moved in to their first home and had a tonne of leaves to rake out of the yard) and we went on to finish our night. Then the next morning, December 2nd, we got our weekly pick up of day old baked goods from Costco, but they had an extra skid for us, that was 1002 diapers! Kelsey and her husband are also expecting their first baby in 2 months! Then someone else dropped of 6 fabulous bar stools for Jenna, our youth director (they go through stools really fast at the Hub Youth Centre). As I’m thinking about all these things the Lord gave me a nudge to remind me of what He’d said… all these gifts were from Him. All of a sudden I realized that God had been doing Advent gifts for my friends and I hadn’t even noticed! It truly was a gift from Him each day. He wasn’t using me to do it this year, He was taking care of it all by Himself. Using different people on different days to bless others. He didn’t need me. My friends didn’t need me. All I needed to do was recognize the gift and the Giver!
All of a sudden I wasn’t so disappointed about Advent, I was excited to see what God was going to do the next day and for who? And no word of a lie, every day from Dec 1-Dec 24 there was some incredible gift that God provided for my friends, for the ministry and even for me. (I wrote them all in my journal so if you really want to know each day just ask!) It was the simplest of things, but it changed my perspective entirely. I purposed each day to see the Advent gift from the Lord. Some days were really obvious, a couple were little things, but day in and day out, there was some blessing.
It occurred to me that this didn’t have to be something that was just for Advent. Not just on those 24 days did I get to pull back the little door on my calendar and see what God had for me. This was a perspective I could take in to every single day. To look for the good gift that the Father of Lights (James 1) had given me that day. Today is December 29th, and I’m still writing a list. Some days, I get to be the conduit that God uses to bless someone else, others, I’m the one blessed, and still others I get to rejoice with another over the gift God’s given them. It has changed my heart into a thankful one. A heart that is now quick to see and point out to others the incredible ways God works. It makes every day exciting, and gets me out of bed with anticipation of what He’s going to do today.
I pray that as this year wraps up, you can take a moment to recognize those Advent gifts for yourself, and I’d challenge you to start looking every day, even asking “God, what are you going to do today?” then start recognizing Him and glorifying Him! Happy New Year!