Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 69 - Spring (Sep-Nov 2021) > A Gift Most Treasured (by Annette Stafford)

A Gift Most Treasured

by Annette Stafford

A vivid memory of mine was when I was about 5 years old and the occasion was my sister's birthday.  Birthdays were very special occasions in our household and our whole family was sitting all around the dining room table having eaten dinner and Elizabeth my sister was opening her presents from Mum and Dad.  There seemed to be so many of them, and they all looked interesting and inviting. My mother was always a very neat person, in all that she did, so each gift was possibly as beautiful on the outside as the actual gift on the inside was. There was bright crisp wrapping-paper on each gift with bows and crinkly bright ribbons tied around them.

My sister opened each with painstaking precision.  She was not like me in the way she opened a gift… she slowly undid the bow and then proceeded to undo the cellotape and then take the paper off to finally reveal the gift.  Before starting on the next gift she carefully folded the paper into neat folds.  After she had finished opening them, I remember looking at her gifts all neatly laid out and although they were not gifts I would have wanted for myself, they looked so appealing and beautiful with the way she had arranged them on the table.

I remember the opening of her birthday presents as a most frustrating exercise because, for me, to receive a gift was an opportunity to rip it open as fast as my excited fingers would allow, ribbons strewn across the table and paper ripped completely from side to side but as a 5 year old the memory imprinted in my mind was more the beautiful presentation of the gift, its wrapping, the ribbon and then the careful considered way my sister had opened the gift, seeming to honour the work my mother had placed in its wrapping.

Another memory I have of gift giving in much later years was when my immediate family received a ship in a bottle.  It would have been a painstaking exercise for the giver to craft this ship in the bottle. The ship had been made by hand with each of the wooden parts glued together and then the whole work of art placed in a bottle.  The gift was huge and as I removed the gift wrapping which had been loosely covering the ship, I remember hiding my reaction because it was so disappointing to see what was inside.  To spare any hurt I covered my shock well!  It wasn't just that the gift was something I would never have chosen myself but its sheer size posed a problem for where it should be placed and all I could see was that it was going to be a dust collector and too delicate to have around with a houseful of young children.   I didn't have to ponder the thought of where I would put it for very long because the giver told me he had made it so that it could take pride of place on our dining room cabinet as a reminder of how much his family thought of us.

I appreciated the sentiment behind the gift but the more I looked at this ship in the bottle the less I liked it.  I was critical of how carelessly it had been made. I couldn't see past all the rough edges that the sander had obviously missed, there was still pencil marks that could be seen beneath the painting and the painting was badly done like a child had painted it. Some of the strings were tight and firm but many were sloppy and loose. Everything about the ship, I observed, had been done without care but it was still a gift and it would have been too rude for me to not have accepted it graciously.  Despite its large size the ship was moved often.  When this family visited, I would haul the ship out from under the cabinet and put it on top of the cabinet.  When they left, I put it back under the cabinet.  This was my compromise. I didn't want to hurt the person who made it for us but at the same time I didn't like the gift at all.  We kept that ship for many years and I got rid of it when we no longer saw the family who gave it to us.

A memory I have of a gift I really loved and valued as a child was when I was 9 years old.  I was the youngest of four children and it was a completely different era financially to what kids experience these days.  Money was tight and people really looked after their things. As the baby of the family nearly all of my clothes were 'hand-me-downs' but one Christmas before the next school year fell upon us, I received a brand-new pair of black leather school shoes.  These were the first brand new shoes I ever remember getting and I was so incredibly grateful. Prior to receiving them I had worn to death an old pair that had been my brothers. The 'hand-me-downs' had been lace ups and I loathed them but there was still wear in them when my brother outgrew them so as soon as my feet were big enough they became mine. My new shoes had bars to go across my foot and bright silver buckles which were so much more feminine than lace ups and I just loved them.  I remember opening the shoebox and before even seeing the shiny shoes I could smell the rich aroma of brand-new leather.  Before the school year started, I was allowed to wear my shoes inside to wear them in and when I took them off, I carefully placed them back in their box. Each night I put the shoes in their box beside me on my pillow and I slept with them - they were greatly prized.

All through the bible there is mention of gifts. In the New Testament a gift was given by the priest as an offering to God, there's mention of the magi presenting gifts to the baby Jesus, Paul talks about the gifts of the spirit but by far the greatest of all gifts ever given to mankind was the gift of Jesus.  God held nothing back when He sent his son for us.  Jesus was a gift of love.  He came with the promise of life extending beyond this world to all who believe Him and accept Him as saviour.  And yet, when Jesus came to this world, many rejected him.  They didn't recognise or appreciate at the time the incredible precious value of this gift from God. Many looked for something bigger and grander.

Each of us are recipients of this Great and Precious Gift.  Are we giving it pride of place in our lives?  Are we showing by our care of this gift just how important it is to us? Are we sharing this gift with others or are we placing it upon the dining room cabinet to collect dust.  Or worse still…… are we sometimes hiding it away under the cabinet?

In John 3.16  'For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life'

This is the greatest of all gifts and it is a gift that keeps on giving.

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 69 - Spring (Sep-Nov 2021) > A Gift Most Treasured (by Annette Stafford)