Secret Santa

Starbucks on Briggate

Image via Wikipedia

I got that giving itch from God today.  A little tickle on my spirit, saying “My daughter, do you see I have a child in need?”

Every now and then, this burden descends upon me to give financially to a specific person. It’s as if God is sitting on my heart and pressing, firmly adjusting my internal vision to see the crisis at hand and move towards it on behalf of my Father’s will. 

I have learned through trial and error to heed this call, avoiding second-guessing and justification,(i.e., does He really want me to go without my monthly Sushi treat or Starbucks?) choosing simple obedience and giving out of my blessings, or lack thereof, depending on the season.

The first time I felt this compulsion to give, I drove over to the family’s home that I felt God nudging me towards and handed them a check.  And though it felt good to be obedient, taking credit for the giving proved anticlimactic.  It felt awkward and rather prideful taking on the role of a Christmas benefactor.

There I stood at the door, having no idea what to say. Somehow, “Hark, I bring tidings of good will and generosity,” didn’t seem appropriate.

The “secret sauce” was missing and the key factor was taking “me” out of the equation and adding in the actual “secret.” 

The next time God put someone on my heart; I got out-of-the-way and allowed Him to be the Giver of all Good Gifts.  I simply played the humble steward, using the gifts and talents He had given me to run his estate. 

And yes, this time my joy was complete.  I got to watch God get the glory and revel in the delight of being a small part of an answered prayer.

Remaining anonymous is like playing Secret Santa without the big reveal, where only you and Jesus know who the real Santa is.  It’s a covert mission from God for the average Christian, a little slice of heaven, to be eaten in the company of angels and not men, for the rewards of this obedience can only be seen in the celestial realm.

When a financial gift is given to someone in need, and the giver remains hidden, something mysterious happens in the spiritual world.  The person sacrificially given to, though they know not of the giver, has become all the more tender.  They have secretly joined in on a “story” of God’s provision.

When I encounter someone whom God financially blessed through me, there is an unexpected seed of compassion deeply rooted in my heart that God has planted.  It’s completely beyond my normal and slightly selfish paradigm, unnatural even, but effortless because of God.  It is His love weaving through my crusty heart to bless both the giver and recipient.

My story and their story intersect, our journeys of faith swirled in layers of sacrifice, obedience, comfort and provision. 

So when the Christmas bonus comes this week, what face comes to mind? A single mom you know, the unemployed father sitting next to you in church, or maybe the family losing their home in your neighborhood?   

But please, oh please…don’t forget the “secret sauce” when you put on that Santa Suit!

Christmas Lights and Humility

Ned Flanders

Image via Wikipedia

Someone stole my neighborhood and turned it into Whoville.  Large elves, masquerading as competitive men have ambushed our energy resources and hung up enough LED lights to have the streets aglow with a garish gleam as bright as the sun.

My first indication that our new neighborhood might go a little “over the top” at Christmas was during a conversation at my son’s baseball game. My neighbor asked me if I wanted to join in on the lift rental. 

A “lift” rental?  Seriously? 

She assured me that it was a normal occurrence in our neck of the suburban woods at Christmastime, and that all the neighbors cooperatively shared the expense and used it for the soaring high icy peaks of our two-story homes.  I could see desperation in her eyes that I grab onto her vision, but I wasn’t taking the bait.

I said “maybe” to the lift. Silly me…I’m so old-school thinking a ladder might be sufficient.

So, a few weeks later, the foretold lift arrived and our neighbors got busy stringing lights on the trees and peaks of our little borough.  My family was out-of-town that weekend, so you can imagine our surprise when we returned.

Remember that song, “I wear my sunglasses at night”? Think bright, stadium bright and you just might get the picture. Every nook, corner and cranny burst forth with Christmas paraphernalia. And that’s just the lights!

The inflatable army has also come out in full force-Frosty, Spongebob, Mickey, and Santa bluster and blow about depending on their robustness or their lack of. Sparkly reindeer, candy-canes and the angelic host have all joined the cast of characters on our street. 

So, not wanting to feel left out, the next weekend my husband risked life and limb on an extension ladder to string a Charlie Brown strand from our roof to our neighbors.  We highlighted one simple peak on the second story, strung lights around the porch, added a few multi-coloreds to the bushes and called it a day. 

We were so proud of our simple accomplishment.  We had fun, experienced a little danger on the extension ladder and laughed a great deal at our slightly cheesy and ghetto attempt at illuminating design.

That is…until we walked to the tract across the street.  Some of our neighbors, concerned that we didn’t quite grasp the seriousness of the “decorating spirit” encouraged our family to travel over to Sarasota, where apparently the big Christmas dogs come out to play.

So, we bundled up the baby, grabbed some coats and mittens, and the family ambled out of our tract into the neighborhood just across the street. 

And this is how we got schooled in the Ned Flanders way of Christmas.

We could hear the roar before we even crossed the street.  Three lifts were at work.  About fifty people were out, from kids to grandmas, and all were busy decorating.  This was definitely the bigger the better, and anti-less is more school of thought. 

Every tree was being wrapped in lights.  Some of the homes had music synchronized with the lights to create shows.  I’m pretty sure I saw a real sleigh and a chorus of angels.  Music blared from loud speakers.  There were Christmas banners, themed homes and lights strung across the street from roof to roof creating a tunnel of extreme awesomeness.  It was the North Pole, a fairy tale, and a child’s Disney dream! 

As my son and I reveled in the majesty of our Costco culture, laughed at the over-commercialized decorations, and took in materialism at its finest, my husband on the other hand, turned sour.  The Grinch face was starting to appear.

“It’s too much,” he said, “too competitive, too garish. They’ve lost the Christmas spirit.”

I nodded my head in agreement while secretly plotting ways to spruce up our own lawn.

“So how about an inflatable Jesus on roller-skates?” I suggested. 

At least I got a smile out of him.

Deep down, I know it’s the posture of our heart that matters at Christmas.  If we are decorating our neighborhood as a gift to the community, than the gift–whatever it’s brilliance or lack thereof is enough.  If we are decorating for approval, applause and to win the association’s contest, then shame on us. 

If I am to be honest, I desire both.  I want to be content with a little.  I also want to compete and win. 

I struggle with my inner naughty; this duality of the Christian walk and the daily battle between choosing humility or competitiveness.  I think I might have caught my neighbor’s desperation.  I’m pretty sure it’s viral.

Praise the Lord that Jesus doesn’t keep a naughty list like Santa or I might get some coal in my stocking.  Because, when my husband goes out of town, some elves just might drop by our house too!

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