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The following is a Christmas devotional I gave in early December at our Community Wreathmaking Party at the Belmont Chapel.  It is more personal than usual, informed by my faith. 

What shall we give to the babe in the manger,
What shall we offer the child in the stall?
Incense and spices and gold we've a-plenty-
Are these the gifts for the king of us all?
Traditional Catalan lyrics

Every Christmas, I, like you, spend a fair amount of time pondering gifts, the gifts I will give to my husband, friends, neighbors, and to my children.  As parents, we  all want to give our children the best gifts.  The New Testament reads, “what man (or woman) is there of you, who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?”

So I ask myself why I sometimes believe that Heavenly Father, whose love for us is greater and purer than any earthly parent’s, doesn’t want me to give me bread —  Why I persistently believe all He will give me is a stone.

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Perhaps my lack of faith has its roots in my upbringing. It’s been said that the picture we paint of Heavenly Father looks rather similar to our earthly parents.  Because my parents were often unavailable, I constantly struggle to shake the belief Heavenly Father won’t come through for me either.  Consequently I spend much of my life angry with God.

Petulant teenager I may be, but devoted child I am too, especially at Christmas. As I give gifts to my children, my thoughts turn to the question — “What shall I give to the Babe in the manger? What shall I offer to the child in the stall?” Incense and spices, and gold I’ve aplenty.  Are these the gifts for my King and your King, the King of us all?

As some of you know, my passion is investing.  That’s probably why I love the parables to do with money. The currency may not be dollars, but I inherently understand the transactions.  In particular I like the parable of the talents.  It reads: “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man…who gave unto one

[servant] five talents, to another two, and to another one.  She that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them another five talents…. she that had received two, she gained another two…. But she that had received one, went and digged in the earth, and hid her lord’s money.”  Historically, I’ve interpreted this parable as chastising us for not developing our talents.

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Source:  istockphoto

Ironically – again think contrary teenager — I may believe the Lord loves me, but of course he’d give me the highest number of talents, because, well, he does love me.  Which I would go out and develop so that eventually, He would approve of me saying “Well, Done Thou Good and faithful Whitney.”  But I’ve come to believe that I am each of these servants, in turn.

In some areas of our lives, we have five talents.  We feel tremendous bounty – we are even risk-seeking (in investment or economic terms) because if we lose one talent, we still have four.  To a lesser extent, we do this in the two-talent areas of our lives.  But it’s the one talent I’d like to focus on.  This gift that we hide away, that we don’t develop, for fear that if we unlock our heart’s vault and invest, there may be no return on this dearest of talents, and our world will be lost.  The talent I’ve buried deep in the earth is that of trusting in the Lord.  He grants me this talent through multiple witnesses of His power and His love, yet I continually quash the flower of faith He would have grow within me.

There can be any number of reasons why we choose to bury a certain talent and refuse to let it grow.  Your hidden or buried gift from the Father will likely be something entirely different than mine.  A truth that you can’t accept, a trial that could become a blessing, or a dream that you won’t allow yourself to pursue.

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Tonight we are making wreaths, wreaths to hang on the front door of our homes, to invite the spirit of Christmas. The ancient Greeks and Romans used evergreen leaves to make crowns that were awarded as prizes to Olympic athletes, military heros, and kings.  Certainly this is an appropriate reminder of Him who is the king of us all.   In Christianity, evergreen wreaths represent hope and everlasting life.  I’d like for you to also consider the wreath as a symbol of the small coin known as a mite.

Out of her seeming poverty, the widow gave her mite, her gift to God that was very small, but at the same time, it was everything. Our mite is that gift we aren’t yet sure we can give, coming from a place in our heart where we feel anything but bounty.  We talk about giving away all our sins to know Christ.  Certainly it’s a struggle to give up sins.  But for me, it’s even more difficult to give in to Him, to let go of my doubt.  But I yearn to.  And so, this Christmas I will gather my courage, and from my closely-guarded, double-bolted, and I think I’ve thrown away the key to the vault of my heart, I will offer Him this — I will pray to our Father in Heaven for each of the next three days, that I can stop hiding my talent of trusting in the Lord:  I will pray to trust, and that He will help thou mine mistrust.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said “the only true gift is a portion of thyself.”  This Christmas, may we give that portion we cannot quite yet give.  May we have the courage to unbury the one talent, whatever it may be. For this is the gift that the Savior, the babe in the manger, most wants from us.  If we will give this One talent, our widow’s mite, we will not only weep tears for his mercy, He will crown us with the wreath of His Love.

Merry Christmas dear friends,

Whitney

P.S.  Thanks to @terezan for her insight about the Parable of the Talents.

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