"If you ever have an extra one of those, could I have it?"
She stopped rubbing her thin arms against the cold long enough to point toward the hand-held can opener on the faded wooden table in front of us.
Anna continued..."the church gave me a can of tuna fish and I had no way to open it. I took a big knife and stabbed the can over and over trying to punch a hole in it, but I couldn't."
I winced as I pictured her waging battle against the small metal can with a large, sharp knife and all the ways that could have gone oh so wrong.
"There's one in the box we just put in your room" I said with a smile.
I wasn't prepared for the force with which she flung her arms around my neck squealing "thank you! thank you so much!"
I gave her a hug and then she began jumping up and down clapping her hands together with glee.
"You made my day! It's the best gift ever!!"
While most of us would not get excited over a dollar store can opener, to a lonely and forgotten woman, it was an exceptional gift.
But the best gift ever?
The best gift ever didn't arrive in a cardboard box in the parking lot of a welfare motel.
It came more than 2000 years ago in the lowly manger stall of a crowded inn.
Luke 2:4-7 "So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available to them.
What a scene.
A woman who was an outcast - unmarried and pregnant. A place most didn't want to go - a smelly, animal-filled stall.
While most of us would not get excited over a child born in such a place and under such circumstances, to lonely and forgotten men...shepherds...the announcement of His birth was an exceptional gift.
Luke 2:8-12 "And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to the, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'"
While Anna's gift of a can opener was essential for the need at hand, God's gift of His son, and through that son, eternal life, is an essential gift for every single one of us. It addresses all our needs - past, present and future.
It's the best gift ever.
Best of all, we don't have to hope it will come our way some day. It's been hand-delivered to us, free of charge. We need only to open and accept it. Today. Now. This very moment.
Like Anna trying to puncture a can of tuna with a knife, have you been using all the wrong tools to experience all the fullness of life? Going to church won't do it. Helping others won't do it. Being a good person won't do it.
The only way to "have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10), is by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
My hope for you is that this year, this Christmas season, you will open the gift that is too large to fit under any tree. It costs nothing, but is priceless. The only requirement is that you open it!
"If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9
He's the best. gift. ever.