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On the Side - December 2014

A New Gift Idea

By Shelly Wyrick

It’s here. The Christmas season. If you do Christmas-time like I do Christmas-time, then you’re all in. Full bore. All 563 annual traditions will be carried out in 25 days. Each of my 17 nieces and nephews will have a well thought-out gift.  Last year my sister cried for joy when she opened my present and could barely mutter thank you through her huff-huffs. Overboard? Absolutely. Just sayin’ --I rocked it. All in gratitude of that Baby in a manger.
What would be the most grandiose marvelously marvelous gift idea?  Is it a car with a ridiculous red bow parked in the driveway? Of course not. The best gift idea has already been taken -- it’s a Savior. We can’t top that. But as long as I’m merely human I will enjoy giving good gifts.  And there’s one gift I plan to give a little more this year.  It’s likely one you haven’t thought of – the gift of encouragement.
I recently met Barnabas in my morning devotional time. Prior to this, I had heard of him only enough to confuse his name with Barabbas, the criminal set free instead of Jesus. They’re not the same. This was Joseph, the man who was so comforting to others that he was given the nickname Son of Encouragement, or Barnabus.  He had a refreshing massive capacity to encourage people towards Jesus. Maybe that’s old news to you, but there’s more... there was the presence of joy. After Barnabus had been on the scene, the Bible tells us  “the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52 NAS). That’s huge to me because honestly, I don’t really care so much about the hullabaloo of Christmas. I just want to spread joy, the gospel variety.
Encouragement and joy. Put another way, in Acts 11:23 it says Barnabas was “…glad and encouraged all of them…(HASB).  Glad and encouraged. Glad and encouraged. As I mulled it over, I felt like their coexistence was not a coincidence.  I’d like to tell you I read about this in a really fat commentary. Or that my searching found the Hebrew meanings of these words are related.  I wish they were.  Instead, I consulted a very cute scholar of faith during our rushed morning routine, my seven-year-old. I stood braiding her hair in front of the mirror and in lieu of a morning devotional told her about my new Bible buddy Barny and how encouragement and joy seemed to go together but I wasn’t sure how. She had no problem clarifying it for me. She said, “Joy is like a gift. When you give a person a gift you always feel really good inside yourself. Encouragement is like that.”
She’s right. Encouragement is a gift. It is a gift that spreads confidence and joy, and lifts us up, all at the same time.
Hands down, the best gift I gave last year was the one that caused the blubbering thank you from my big sis. My present wasn’t a cashmere sweater. Or a new car. Or even super cute boots. My husband and I had taken up a cause she had cared very much about and we supported it a little. Is that not encouragement? Taking up someone else’s concern and bolstering their ability in it?  That very morning, Christmas morning, prior to our gift-opening circus, she had been longing to do something about this cause. And then she got my gift.
Maybe the best gifts this year will be those of unexpected encouragement. Maybe they won’t cost a dime. Maybe there are folks on our list who don’t need fruitcake as much as they need a friend – a Jesus-loving friend who is willing to bolster them with confidence. Who knows, maybe giving the gift of encouragement will lift us up in the process.
Now…back to the 563 traditions.
Shelly is a physical therapist turned play-at-home-mom of three young blessings. Among other accomplishments, she recently read every word of a whole chapter book to her children. Shelly adores her old-fashioned manly-man of a husband, coffee, and Jesus.  In her spare moments she attempts to write, run, and craft.


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