Friends, please enjoy this testimony from Rev. John Bright, Pastor of the Harmony-Swansonville Cooperative Parish on the Danville District of the Virginia Annual Conference of the UMC, and Treasurer of our Board.
"I have a confession to make - I hated gift exchanges in the past. It practically ruined Christmas for me every year. There was just too much pressure. The worst was a year when the budget was really tight. Lynn and I decided that we would only do each other’s stockings and set a limit on how much to spend. I worked hard to fill her stocking and not go over the set amount. Then, on Christmas morning, we were opening presents and the kids brought me a present with the tag – “To John, From Lynn.” I was livid! I allowed that anger to ruin the rest of Christmas day.
Let me explain, I was calculating what everyone (including God) gave me and I was giving back to the exact penny! All my calculations were based on my self-worth (pretty darn low back then) and a view of God where He only gave us what we deserve (in other words, I had to earn His/other folks love). Sounds pretty messed up, huh? Actually, it was all a LIE – straight from the pit of HELL!
Twenty-one years ago, I went on the Walk to Emmaus and began a healing journey. I realized its OK to want to be loved. I also began to believe in Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Oh – I knew it… I preached it… and I would have told you it applied to each of you. Yet whenever it came to me, I always said “Yeah-but” (That’s a special word that looks like two words. Folks put them together and cancel out the promises of God to themselves that apply to ALL BELIEVERS!) I never use that nasty little word anymore, thank God.
How does it look for me today with Christmas and gift giving? With everything going on this year (‘nuff said) – Lynn and I are skipping presents and doing stockings for each other. Samantha needed a new computer so we got that for her on Black Friday and she is insistent on not getting anything else. So, while I was home, I asked them both, “Is there something that could show up under the tree that would you would like or need?” Suggestions were made and presents (all pretty small) have been purchased. Such a simple thing that used to be so hard for this formerly hard-hearted guy to understand. I’m profoundly joyful that just typing these words can bring tears to my eyes. Praise God from whom all blessing flow."