By the time you read this, the gifts are open, the good ribbons stashed away for next year, and the regifting list is being compiled. However, as I write this, holiday shopping is reaching critical mass.
Calls come in: "What should I get so-and-so?" Catalog pages flip like Mexican jumping beans on a hot tin roof. Prayers rise up: "Dear Lord, You alone know what she wants! Don't let me buy an iron again!" We stress out over what to buy for whom, how much, and how many.
The polite answer is, "It doesn't matter. Anything from you is fine." To husbands, that translates as, "Head for the dollar store." For wives, "Oh goody, I don't have to return the pink shirt with the puffy sleeves. He'll wear it to work with pride!"
The answer du jour is, "It's the thought that counts." You'd better think twice about that gift! However, when love is involved, sometimes the thought is enough--it's what matters most.
When loved ones are away, all you have to bring them nigh is your thoughts. Memories are like biblical faith: You know there is substance behind them, lending a certain reality to your thoughts. The hope of their presence creates a longing that is also simultaneously satisfied, if only for a moment.
Thoughts are the seeds of actions, the building blocks of character. They are what matter most. Thoughts indicate what's in the heart: "For it is from within, out of a person's heart, that evil thoughts come" (Mark 7:21). So, it is the thought that counts. Therefore, what matters most is what you think about most.
King David admonished Solomon, "Know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever" (1 Chronicles 28:9). Of the wicked, it is said: "In all his thoughts there is no room for God" (Psalm 10:4). There is no hiding from God: "You understand my thought afar off" (Psalm 139:2).
As precious as nice gifts are, there is something even more personal and intimate that can thrill a soul. The gift of a few simple words, "I was thinking of you," costs little more than two seconds and a piece of your heart, but means so much. It means even more when you know the giver is very busy or in a lofty position. What if the person is--Are you ready?--God! Imagine the president calling and saying, "I was just thinking about you." Could the man running the country, a person you've never met, even know you exist, and have the time to call? Think of the One running the entire universe: Every atom, every galaxy, every government, every second! David marveled, "How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you" (Psalm 139:17, 18).
What kind of thoughts does God have about us? "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11). Are God's thoughts of any value? "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9). "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen" (Ephesians 3:20, 21).
What matters most is what you think of God and His gift: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). To quote Jesus, "What do you think about the Christ?" (Matthew 22:42).