Sundays – First Service 8:45a | Formation Hour 10:10a | Second Service 11:15a


Gift of Love
by Michelle Bickers

Isaiah 7:10-17

God’s word to Ahaz, “Ask for a sign from your God. Ask anything. Be extravagant. Ask for the moon!”

But Ahaz said, “I’d never do that. I’d never make demands like that on God!” Isaiah 7:10-12

When my brothers and I were children, we, like many other kids across the country, were thrilled when the Sears and Roebuck Christmas catalog arrived in our mailbox. The slick, crisp, pages were filled with everything we could ever desire. At our fingertips were games, bikes, baby strollers, wagons, cotton candy making machines, pottery wheels, costumes, and genuine leather stamping kits – the selection was staggering. In the days before post-it notes, we would each take a turn looking through the pages, making our lists, and referencing the page number on which the item could be found. We would then make our pilgrimage to the mall to visit with Santa and try to read off as much of the list as we could possibly utter in our allotted time.

I remember usually having two categories of requests, one or two things I really wanted and had wanted before the catalog arrived, and items I had never once thought about, but upon seeing them in the catalog, were exactly what I needed to fulfill my Christmas dreams! My top item was something I had longed for months, a Madame Alexander, Victoria, baby doll. My friend had one, we played with her together, she even let me change her clothes sometimes! We talked about how fun it would be for us each to have our own. The doll looked so real, I had imagined how wonderful it would be to have a beautiful baby to play with, dress any time I wanted, and have my own baby when Suzie and I played house. Hers was named Victoria, mine would be Elizabeth. She won the top spot on my list that year.

The cotton candy machine would fall into the second group of requests. I loved the cotton candy we would get at the circus or the fair and relished the way the strands of sugar melted on my tongue. When I saw the cotton candy machine in the catalog and imagined the ability to have clouds of sweetness at any time I wished, I quickly wrote down the item and page number on my list.

On Christmas morning, I was delighted to discover my baby doll balanced on the wrapped gifts underneath the tree. She sat next to me while I unwrapped the other gifts I had been given, which included the cotton candy machine. I spent most of the day, lost in play with my baby, dressing and undressing, changing diapers and feeding her to my heart’s content.

That night my dad called me downstairs, “Hey Shell, let’s try out that cotton candy machine!” I ran down the steps and the set up began. Reading the directions has never been my strength, so, I assembled while my dad read the directions. We poured the sugar in the pan, watched it melt and soon it began swirling hot, melted, sugar onto our hands and faces. “Turn it off! Turn it off!” my dad exclaimed. And back to the directions, we went to discover where we went wrong. It required a finer sugar than your everyday kind, so we would have to wait until we bought the right kind and give it another go. I remember only one more try with the machine after we bought the right sugar and maybe we got a couple of anemic cones of cotton candy, nevertheless, it never produced the clouds of sugary delight I had imagined when I included the machine of my list of Christmas dreams.

As I read and consider God’s words to Ahaz, my first thought is, “Seriously, God of the universe is asking for your list and you can’t come up with anything?” Quickly, I come to the realization that maybe Ahaz was wiser than I have given him credit, for my imagination would never yield the great gift God had in mind either. As a child, I was captured by clouds of sugar and a baby who looked real, even now as an adult I imagine lifeless “things” completing me. I, like Ahaz, could never imagine a baby who was the firstborn of all creation dwelling in our midst, bringing healing, life, and purpose to a sick and broken people. That which is beyond our imagination, our great God in his love and mercy, planned and set in motion in the birth, life, death and resurrection of his Son. Paul puts it this way in Colossians,

So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.

I look around at our world and see so much brokenness and pain. I have opinions on how we can answer, but after reflecting, rather than giving God lists of what I believe the world needs from Him this Christmas, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for a God who can never be boxed in with my lists and expectations. I join the angels in saying, “Gloria in the highest!” His gift of love exceeds all I could hope or imagine, He always has and always will continue putting all things to right, His love for His creation cannot be overwhelmed by our need, I can neither imagine a love like that nor can walk away from that gift. Let us rejoice in our gift of Jesus!

Image by Polly Gonçalves (used by permission via Creative Commons).