Christ's Glory, Not Mine

by science fiction author Andrea J. Graham

Christmas Isn’t Over

Yesterday marked the first day of the Christmas season. If you’re confused by this, the Christmas season that ended yesterday is technically known as Advent. The traditional Christmas season only begins on December 25 and runs until January 6. Most protestants have gotten away from this due to anti-catholic sentiment.

My point, though, is to deliver good news to anyone upset they didn’t get their gifts in the mail soon enough (or by the right delivery method) for their gifts to get there by December 25. Your presents can arrive at the recipients’ mailing addresses as late as January 6 and still get there in time for Christmas.

Thus you also still have time to finish making or buying presents for people you realized you forgot when they remembered you. Though really we should learn to worry about that less as Christians. After all, God gives generously to people who have nothing to offer the Lord in return but grateful hearts.

Let’s also realize, according to the Five Love Languages, gifts are only one of five ways of communicating love to one another. Not every method speaks to every person. For instance, gifts and acts of service are not my native love languages. I struggle with being a bit wary of those gestures’ motives, being more likely to fear you’re trying to manipulate me than to automatically feel loved. Context makes a huge difference. When someone makes the effort to affirm me, touch me in good ways, and/or spend time interacting with me positively, then it’s much easier for me to recognize when they’re giving me either things or services as simply an expression of love.

Don’t get me wrong, I seek to know and follow the social rules of how to respond to gifts of stuff and/or services. So long as there aren’t strings attached, I do appreciate them. I just won’t feel someone’s love for me unless the person says it in my native “love” tongues.

If you’re a gift-giver frustrated that you give, and give, and give, but still get told you haven’t show enough love, I have a few tips. For starters, stop trying to say “I love you” with stuff to someone who sees it as just stuff and give them what they need to feel loved.

Second, on gift-giving occasions, look for presents that will involve you spending quality time with them, such as season tickets, passes, or gift certificates to activities/places you can do/visit together. Or look for gifts that affirm their positive character traits or which say, “I am rooting for you to succeed at what’s important to you!” If you can, make something personal. Or look for gifts that will create a sensory experience that reminds them of your hugs or other touching that is appropriate to your relationship.

It may take some experimenting this way to find the right kind of gift. If that would be too frustrating for you, try asking them if they’ve read the Five Love Languages and asking them what theirs is. If the answers are, “No, and I don’t know” offer to buy it and work through it with them. If they say they don’t have time, perhaps they will have time for this free quiz.

Or make them a book of “coupons” they can redeem for services, quality time with you, honest compliments, and good touching. The ones they redeem will give you a good indicator of what speaks to them. Since these can get lost and never redeemed, also give them a nice new pen and ask them to check off the coupons they liked best.

However you go about it, just about everyone appreciates efforts to learn how to express love to them in a way where they’ll feel loved.

If you are like me, please don’t use “gifts and/or acts of service aren’t my love language” as an excuse to not respond to them with respectful appreciation. Do consider finding another occasion to tell your loved ones about what you need to feel loved, but try to note what efforts they do make and show gratitude for them. It can be hard when we’re hungry for the expressions of love we need, I know, but as Christians we can trust God to feed us. Let’s ask God to take care of us and help us to recognize human attempts to show us love even if they don’t speak to us. Let’s ask God to help us be truly grateful.

One last thought on gratitude, the lack of it goes hand in hand with selfishness. If we think we are surrounded by selfish people, we are to some extent. If we think we are immune, though, we likely suffer an ungrateful, entitlement mentality as well as selfishness. We all must fight a natural, universal feature of the human sin nature, self-idolatry. So let’s be gracious about the “selfishness” of those around us. We may well be seeing a reflection of our own.

Note to adult survivors of child abuse: I am so sorry for saying that you, since it likely feels like you’ve been called selfish since the day you were born. Child abusers act like their children were put on Earth to meet the parents’ needs and live for the parents. In truth, the call to parenthood is a call to selflessly meet children’s needs, and the goal of parenting is to release adult children to go forth to pay it forward however God calls us to as we live for God.

To bring us back to my initial thought, Merry Christmas!