What Only God Can Do


Years of being blessed with a low checking account balance forced me to rethink my approach to Christmas. Those were not easy years as I tried to tell myself that Christmas isn’t all about the presents, while fearing that my family would consider me cheap or inconsiderate.

A budget gift is a budget gift.

In a happy case of irony, my focus on gift-giving lead me back to a better conception of Christmas.

If art thrives on limitation, gift-giving followed suit. If I only had ten dollars to spend on each person, I had to ask very different questions for gift-giving, the most important being: “What would this person never buy for himself/herself?”

This lead to a series of time-consuming projects such as homemade applesauce, unique jams, hot sauce, and framed photographs. Everything was tailored to the specific needs of each person and in most cases kept us within our budget.

The first time I gave my grandmother a jar of homemade applesauce, she opened it right away and burst into tears at the first taste. She hadn’t eaten homemade applesauce since the last time her mother had made it. My mom guards her jar of blueberry jam, while my in-laws don’t miss a meal without their hot sauce.

As we’ve reached greater financial security, we’ve been able to spend more money on gifts, but our question remains the same. Oddly enough, the homemade gifts are still a big hit. In addition, we’ve begun to keep our Christmas spending under control by joining together with family members to buy one large gift that someone would never purchase on his/her.

I organized some pretty epic purchases that both met a relative’s need and ensured a minimum investment—the biggest ticket item being a computer for my wife before she entered graduate school. I’d share some examples from this year, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise for anyone.

Ironically, the more I’ve thought about my gift-giving strategy, the more I’ve been drawn away from focusing on giving gifts and pondering the power of God. Isn’t Christmas all about the power of God to do for us what we could never do for ourselves?

I love the promise that Gabriel made to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

God overshadows us. He breaks into our gift-giving madness to remind us that our iPads will one day break, our E-readers will be replaced, our shirts will unravel, and even our jams will go rotten. We can’t beat greed, materialism, and selfishness on our own. We’ll keep thinking that these bits of technology and clothing are what we really need.

God knows that we need to overshadowed. We need him to overcome every competing desire in our life. Only he can overshadow every idol that tries to replace those quiet moments where we sense that the loving touch of God is what we were made to experience, even if we think we’ll be fulfilled by touching what we have made.

There is incredible joy in giving someone a gift that he could never acquire on his own. In fact, meeting a real need is the best kind of gift giving. God knew that when he overshadowed Mary with his power and sent us a Savior as the greatest gift—doing something we could never accomplish on our own.

May we find that joy both in our relationships with God and with one another. May we find what only God can give and meet needs that would otherwise remain.

This post is part of World Vision’s 12 Blogs of Christmas Project about the true spirit of Christmas. In order to learn more real needs that you can meet this Christmas season, check out the World Vision Catalogue.

Do you have your own story about the true spirit of Christmas? Share it today at the World Vision blog.

4 thoughts on “What Only God Can Do

  1. Erin

    We are on a low budget for Christmas this year combined with a busy schedule. When I was working in the home a couple years ago, I had time to make a bunch of different homemade gifts, but that is just not a possibility this year. One of the things that we’re doing is bartering with friends – say I make something that is nice and it’s easy to make a bunch at one time (like aprons), I can trade that item for something my friend is making (like superhero capes). Because there are a few of us trading, we can have a variety of different gifts. It is our first year trying this, and we are still in the middle of the experiment, but so far it has been fun and encouraging.

    And I love that through not having enough, we have to depend on each other more.

    Good post!

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  3. Jennifer

    Ed, I really like the question you ask: What could I give that they couldn’t give themselves. On a budget and in a wealthy family, I often feel like our offerings are meager, but I also know that my father in law prefers a jar of my chili to anything I could buy him. And I know my nieces and nephews would rather play with their cousins.

    In the larger view, I can’t give, buy or make anything they NEED. I can only be who I am in relationship with them and neither will there be anything under any tree that will make my life perfect.

    The gift we can’t give: God’s overshadowing grace, peace, joy and discipline. Thank you Ed.

  4. Michael

    One of the best gifts I ever received was a set of bookmarks with pictures and information about various early Church Fathers. Thoughtfulness and relationship are always at the core of good gift giving.

    Great post!

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