Gary Chapman’s famous five love languages are as follows:
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
Many will receive gifts this Christmas season. Suppose you receive a Maglite® flashlight as a gift from a loved one (this sounds like a guy’s gift, but ladies bear with the example as well). It is indeed a practical gift. It will be of use for you perhaps in your vehicle for emergencies or on a camping or hunting trip. Yet, in all its good use to you, it is severely limited. You may say, “You are the brightest flashlight I have ever owned.” You may regularly install fresh batteries in it, keep it secure in a case, spend much time with it, or proudly hold it in your hand. Yet it cannot express love in any language to you in return.
Are you by chance like the flashlight? Do you feel helpless to respond to each expression of love God has invested in your life? I sure feel that way, especially lately, as I am in awe of the goodness of God on this undeserving human!
The Christmas story is only a part of God’s creative plan to reveal love to the world. Jesus ultimately sacrificed everything, including his life, to prove His love for us. At Christmas, it is tradition to celebrate by giving gifts to one another. Gifts are a sign of love, just like God’s gift to us was a sign of love.
Yet God fulfills each of Chapman’s love languages completely, not just by His gracious gift of salvation and eternal life in Heaven. God’s Word is full of words of affirmation. His death on the cross, his burden-bearing power, and His active grace and provision each are an act of service. Physical touch is indirect as He does it through friends, spouses, children and parents. He desires to spend quality time with you communicating verbally and through his written Word.
I would encourage you to show your gratefulness to God and others spontaneously. In other words, do it in whatever way you can, even if it is different and not traditional. Everyone is different; each of us gives and receives love in different ways. Don’t limit yourself to giving gifts, especially if this is not one of your love languages. Our love to others is an expression of our love for God. Expand your Christmas tradition: Spend time with a friend talking and listening. Shovel a neighbor’s driveway, wishing them Merry Christmas. Go to the hospital and hold the hand of a lonely patient. Tell each one in your family why you love them. Be yourself, and express your love in whatever way you feel shows it the most.
On that thought, I chose to do an unusual look into the characters of the Christmas story in the Bible. Watch carefully how each of them reacts to God’s great gift of love differently and spontaneously as individuals.
She gave up her security and comfort in bearing the child. She spent quality time with Him, before and after birth. She gently held Him in her arms. She served by wrapping Him in swaddling clothes (as was tradition to make His limbs grow straight). She most likely soothed His cries with soft words of affirmation.
He gave up his reputation to care for Mary and the child, and spent time traveling with Him. He served with protection and leadership by taking Him to Egypt. He doesn’t go on and on to the newborn about his cute dark hair and pudgy legs. Maybe he didn’t even feel worthy to hold Him in his arms.
She exclaimed and blessed the child in Mary’s womb, giving praise and glory to God. She invited them to stay and spend three months with her. There is no mention of her giving a surprise baby shower.
Of course we know the magi arrived and gave Jesus gifts. The only other thing is that they fell down and worshipped him. This was their best way of expressing their affection for the child. They didn’t offer to serve by washing out his diapers for Mary. I doubt they encouraged Him to start crawling about the room. The Bible doesn’t say they wanted to hold him, or that they spent time lying on the floor playing Mega Bloks® with Him.
The shepherds just showed up and spent some time with Jesus. There is no mention of any gifts or offers to clean out the manger or bring in fresh straw. There is no sign that they ran up to Mary at church and asked to hold the baby. Nothing is said about them drooling over Him saying He was the cutest baby they ever saw.
Simeon (assuming he was a priest as the text suggests) performed service for the young couple and child. He spent time with the child and couple. He then even held the baby in his arms. He also exclaimed over the child about his purpose for coming and blessed them. He did a lot, but Luke doesn’t mention that he bought Him a rattle toy.
This woman expressed her affection much the same way as Simeon, including spending time with them, and telling others the good news. The Bible doesn’t hint at her going to a yard sale and buying Him a “Handsome Like Daddy” bib.
This poor guy had an issue returning love. We know he didn’t go visit the child, although he wanted to *(tsk). There is no indication that he sent Him a pack of royal baby diapers. There is no mention that he went by to hold His hand or tell Him what a good little king He would make. Pugh, He didn’t offer to change His diaper!
You see, we all show and desire love in different ways. How do you spontaneously spond to God’s expression of love to you? Go ahead, be yourself this Christmas. Just remember not to be like so many Herod’s of our time and choose to reject so great a Gift.