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TONY ELDER: The greatest gift we can give to one another at Christmas is love

A good friend of mine at a local nursing home passed from this life to be with the Lord last week. She was a sweet-spirited, godly lady.

When I visited with her each week, she would always enjoy my reading to her the latest newspaper column I had written. Due to her failing eyesight, she was unable to do so herself. Many times when I got to the end of that week's article, she would graciously suggest, "I think that's the best one you've written yet."

Due to my friend's interest and encouragement concerning my writing, I thought it only fitting that I share with you something she had written. She had actually won some recognition at one time for some poems which she had penned.

As I searched for a couple of those literary works to share at her funeral, I also found a note dated December of 2007 in which she had expressed a few thoughts about Christmas.

It read: "As I sat at my computer getting ready to write some letters, I was suddenly reminded of just how blessed we are. I thought of all the gifts we go to so much time and trouble buying, presents for others we love, and hoping they love us.

"But the most precious and valuable gift we can give to one another are things which cannot be purchased, wrapped, or hung on a tree. It can be spelled L-O-V-E."

My friend went on to comment about how various other people may love us, but then closed with this statement: "But no one has or ever will equal the love God had, and still has, for His children."

In that little note, my friend left me a special gift for this Christmas -- a reminder of the importance of the people in our lives and that the greatest gift we can give to one another is love.

There are so many other things we get focused on this time of year -- the shopping for gifts, the giving and receiving of those presents, preparing for special church programs or activities, making Christmas cookies, carrying on certain holiday traditions, along with all the other busyness in which we get wrapped up.

Sometimes the important people in our lives can get lost in the frenzy of the season.

Let's not lose sight of our family and friends behind the bright lights of everything else going on around the holidays. Let's be thankful for the love that's been shown to us by others.

And let's seek opportunities to express our love to those special people, telling them how much we appreciate them, and showing it through our kind actions.

But as my friend indicated, the greatest love is God's love for us. Our love for others is simply a reflection of how much God has loved each one of us -- that's what Christmas is really all about. It's about celebrating the fact that God loved us, and that He loved us enough to send His Son into this world so we might have eternal life through Him.

I John 4:9-11 suggests that this event of the incarnation of Christ to be our Savior is the greatest expression of love, the greatest love story imaginable. Then it adds, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."

God's love for us is the model, inspiration, and motivation for us loving the people around us.

So as Christmas comes, let's remember that it truly is all about love, and let's share God's kind of Christmas love with our family and friends.

If my dear friend is looking on today, I hope she's thinking, "That's the best one you've written yet."

The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.