A few years ago when I was in the Philippines, I marveled that they had Christmas ornaments and trees already in the stores in August. Have you started thinking about what to buy for your loved ones this Christmas? Trust me; the retailers have given it lots of thought. Getting you pumped to buy has become more important than encouraging thoughtfulness about what to give.
But I’ve discovered that the pandemic has heightened our realization of the love and richness of a connected family and the importance of relationships with friends and colleagues. After being separated from many of them, we have become more keenly aware of the fragility of life and the value of passing on a gift of knowledge or wisdom and not just “stuff.”
Christmas 2021 will be special.
I have always been told that you should give what you’d like to receive. If you’re like me, you want to give something meaningful, lasting and ultimately cherished. You want to give something special. One of the fun things I have been able to do because of my travels to different countries has been to search for unique and original Christmas gifts. I look for handmade or artesian gifts – those one-of-a-kind conversation pieces from far-away lands. Often, I find antique and vintage items that have a history or story to them and have been able to come home with some pretty fun finds. I have purchased Tahitian pearls straight off the ocean pier from the pearl farmer, hand-painted Russian ornaments and boxes directly from the artist, reindeer rugs, antler mugs, and many other beautifully carved items along with some historic old books and paintings.
Some of my most cherished finds have been antique Bibles. They have come from different countries and in many languages and from dark, dusty shelves in out-of-the-way shops. While I may not have a specific individual in mind when I make my purchase, I know they will eventually make their way into hands that will cherish them. Several Bibles have inscriptions from a family member who originally gave them as Christmas gifts which were then passed down from generation to generation. Some Bibles have multiple names registered in them, and I have often wondered why a family Bible was given up or how a Russian Bible made its way to England or a German Bible to Israel.
Bibles were the most cherished gifts one might have gotten in years past.
As a teen, my mom gave me a Bible at Christmas with an inscription that I genuinely treasure today. She wrote passionate words of love that continue to comfort me. They are a handwritten reminder of the importance of the Word of God and how she navigated her life by it. They reflect her earnest desire that I might know God fully and allow Him to guide me throughout my life. Now that she is with Jesus and I have children and grandchildren, those words resonate within my heart for their lives as well.
When my parents passed into God’s Kingdom, my brother and I had the task of dividing up their earthly belongings. It wasn’t their financial assets that we cared most about but their Bibles. Even today, I search through them, looking for what my mom or dad had written in their Bible margins, made notes on or underlined. As our world becomes more challenging, their markings have taught me much about how a particular scripture enlightened them and what verses – or even a single word, brought wisdom and direction. Though they’re gone, I feel my parents near me as I read their Bibles.
Have you thought about giving a Bible this year for Christmas?
There are many translations of the Bible. I usually have at least three or four Bibles in front of me when I study. Words resonate with our innermost beings differently, and sometimes, the slightest change of a synonym can affect one’s understanding. It’s interesting to note that the translators of the King James Bible (the most printed version of all time) admitted that they did their best translating it from Aramaic and the Greek languages. Still, they hoped that in the future, others would write additional translations. They knew that popular language use evolves, as we’ve seen recently with words like “woke” or “friend” which have gained new meanings in our modern language.
One of my favorite recent translations is the Passion Bible. The New International Version, New American Standard, Living Bible, English Standard, or Amplified are also great. I have an old Scofield Bible (given to me as a child) and a King James version that I pull out occasionally too. However, I always like reading the Message translation alongside another Bible translation. Eugene Peterson’s poetic summation of the Bible has often clarified many things for me by offering an overall picture of a chapter or passage of scriptures. Whatever version you choose, you’ll discover a guiding light for your life, or as the Bible describes it, a lamp for your feet and a light for your path. (Psalm 119:105 NIV).
Give your loved ones someplace to start thinking and reading.
When God inspired me to write my devotional, Hope 4 Today: Stay Connected to God in a Distracted Culture, research showed that when a person commits to reading the Bible four or more times weekly, it significantly changes their life in positive ways. The research went on to show that we neglect or don’t read the Bible because we are too busy, too distracted and don’t know where to begin. Knowing this, you might tuck inside some favorite scriptures or include a devotional along with your Bible gift to help your loved one start reading.
Lives change when we read the Bible. A Bible is the most meaningful and lasting gift you could ever give someone and could genuinely be a lifesaver.
“For we have the living Word of God, which is full of energy, like a two-mouthed sword. It will even penetrate to the very core of our being where soul and spirit, bone and marrow meet! It interprets and reveals the true thoughts and secret motives of our hearts.” Hebrews 4:12 (Passion Translation).