Friday, December 14, 2012

The Christmas Afghan

The Christmas Afghan
A personal story
by Sarah Jinright

December 14, 2012
Scripture Reading: Luke 6:20-38

The project hadn't started out related to Christmas at all; in fact, my family called it “the millennium blanket” because the afghan took me three years to crochet. This king-sized monstrosity kept my fingers busy during most of my college breaks, until finally, after the New Year in 2000, I finished it. Months later, I packed it into a box and loaded it onto the moving truck that would take me to my first real job as a high school teacher in Virginia.

The afghan assumed a proud place in my new home. Folded over a loveseat where it caught the streaming afternoon sun, I often came home from teaching and smiled to remember my distant family. Seeing the afghan there reminded me of all the love and laughter that had surrounded me while I stitched its many, many rows. In that way, it rescued me from home sickness, and before I knew it, the Christmas season had arrived. My new church had an interesting tradition. Every year, members donated crafts to a silent auction and had a “Christmas for Others” dinner. The proceeds from the auction were divided amongst the church's missionaries in a bonus Christmas check.
Though I had not been prepared for the first auction, I decided I would participate in the next. I bought yarn in country red, blue, and off-white; and began an ambitious American Flag pattern. Then, about a third of the way through my project, Walmart discontinued my yarn colors. Consequently, my project fell by the wayside, and before I knew it, it was Christmas time again.

On the day of the “Christmas for Others” banquet, I walked into my bedroom and shrugged. It really was too bad I didn't have anything to donate. And then my eyes fell on the millennium blanket.

A still, small Voice said, “Oh yes, you do.”

And I answered the Voice out loud, “Oh no, I don't.”

A battle of the heart ensued. For most of the afternoon, I fought the notion that I knew the Lord had placed in my heart. Finally, I gave in. My four roommates witnessed quite a scene. I marched the afghan out onto the back porch to air it, tears streaming down my face. With shame, I recall that my gift that year, was not given graciously.

Nevertheless, the afghan went for a good price. What was done was done, and Christmas rolled into New Years without too much more thought on the matter. When I returned to Virginia after a pleasant Christmas with family, my roommates and I gathered around our little tree to exchange late holiday surprises. When my turn came, my roommates grinned like four Cheshire cats, and presented me with one large box.

Inside, the box was the Christmas afghan! Apparently, they had conspired with someone in the church, to use their funds to buy the blanket back for me. From that moment on, the afghan's significance changed for me.

I was stunned with this thought—this simple, well known, trivialized thought: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his ONLY BEGOTTEN SON.” At Christmas time we celebrate God's great gift to mankind. God gave his best and his only Son for us. Thirty-three years later, Christ returned to Heaven as only He could, in VICTORY, having conquered sin and left mankind with hope—not just for eternal redemption, but for intimacy with Himself.

A decade later, the Christmas afghan continues to remind me of God's great gift and of His goodness toward me. Every time I look at it, I am also reminded that anything given to God will always be returned far better than I could imagine it.

In September 2011, I got the Christmas afghan out early, on September 5th, to be exact. It was the day my husband kissed me and our children goodbye, the day he put his hand on my belly and spoke love to our unborn son, the day he headed off to Navy boot camp. Though my heart was absolutely certain that Wade was following God's plan for our family, seeing him go was indescribably difficult. He was (and is!) the most precious thing that I have in this life, but by God's grace, I'd let him go—not grudgingly—but with a willing heart.

That night, as I draped the afghan over my bed, I thanked God for a life lesson, given at Christmas time more than a decade before. The lesson it represented had been recalled again and again through the coldest seasons of my life. “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)

God loves a cheerful giver! This Christmas, give to all and especially to God with a willing heart, and trust Him to return your gifts to you with eternal dividends!

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