Simple Gifts at Christmas


As a child, I remember buying my dad a ball of string for Christmas. Yes, I gave him string. Who can’t make use of some string now and then? It is such a useful item.  It was inexpensive for a little girl and easily available. My heart was to give my dad something he would like and use, with the little bit of change I had.  He seemed happy with my simple gift.

The gifts we give

The suggestion in the email was to look for tangible ways to give “simple gifts” over the holidays. “What is a way you can give of yourself to someone who cannot repay or return the favor?”  On Christmas, we would then decorate ornaments with samplings of these simple gifts. The size of the gift was unimportant, but the value of it was extremely significant–to be a giver in simple everyday ways. Isn’t that what I want to be in life anyway, is someone who overflows–finding and seizing opportunities to bless and share life with others? In a way, this little suggestion was a practice for me to view my life as a giving life.

It was funny though, how these “simple gifts” I would give became a gift to me in disguise. At times, I had visited the assisted living residence down the street and around the corner, to visit with my “neighbors.” In the season of giving simple gifts, I decided to get out my rusty piano skills and attempt to play Christmas carols for these friends. My youngest son came along, sang and turned pages, as I played and struggled through carols that I only revive once a year. My neighbors didn’t seem to care when my fingers stumbled along, for they just seemed glad to be there. They sang their hearts out and remembered every word of those beautiful carols, even though many of them would forget my name minutes later. As usual, some asked the same questions repeatedly and took delight in my son. They didn’t remember what I said, but they seemed glad I was present. My presence, not presents, is what gifted them. The gift of music became also, a gift to me. The blessing, blesses me as well.

The gift of presence not presents

This reminder from my wise neighbors, is influencing my Christmas seasons. How can I give my presence throughout the holidays? We each have from a treasure chest, gifts to be given–each treasure chest looking a little different. There are not many days until Christmas, but there is still time to give the gift of our presence. What can I give as I am back with family, or have time off?  Is it the gift of listening I can give: really hearing people and not just giving my advice or opinion? Is it the gift of my home I can offer or  the “stuff” I don’t need or use? My home can be a gift to someone who does not have family around or is from a culture that doesn’t celebrate Christmas. These are just a few simple gifts which make possible lasting impressions with friends, relatives, or even in a strained relationship–maybe much more than a present we may give. The gift of my presence may express the love of God more than the gift card I purchased for them.

How will I decorate my ornament?

My family came together that holiday, and we decorated our big round ornaments with pictures and symbols of the gifts we gave using different colored sharpies. We each had our own ornament to creatively share our simple gifts, the things we learned or the blessings passed on or received. The ornaments then were hung on the fireplace garland as a reminder that life is a gift to give. When it came time to decorate my ornament, I knew exactly what I wanted to display: Christmas carols–a gift to me from my neighbors.

Again these wise friends reminded me, as I give these simple gifts I am giving an offering– or gift really, to Jesus. The gifts are like the carols we sing this time of year, lifting up His great name. Simple gifts sing of Him and hopefully, through them, we can offer the gift of Jesus.

Sing and adore…

If you were going to decorate an ornament on Christmas day, what simple gifts would you adorn it with?

Merry Christmas!


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