“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17
I’ve always loved this verse and during the holidays it seems to be everywhere.
Yet somehow I’m always a bit puzzled by the ending. “…coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows?” I’ve often found myself wondering what this means, and how does it relate to God and his good and perfect gifts. I feel like I’ve never quite understood how the two parts of this verse go together.
What I do know is that the beginning of my New Year is sure to be marked with changes.
For five years my husband, girls, and I have shared a roof with my mom and dad. While this sort of arrangement may spell out disaster for some families it has always and only spelled out blessing for me and mine.
And starting this January, our time together is coming to an end, at least for the time being. My dad has accepted a job that is relocating both he and my mom to North Carolina. It’s a position that will last for at least six months with the possibility of a more permanent position to follow.
To say the least our future as a household is a bit uncertain.
When I look back at the years we’ve spent together, and the moments that have transpired within the walls of this house, all I can see are gifts:
Bringing both my babies home from the hospital…
Mom’s holiday (or weeknight) dinners around the table…
Dad’s tea parties with my girls…
Barbecues on our back porch…
Mom’s special talent for rocking my girls to sleep…
Walks around the block on mild summer evenings…
Movies, football, and basketball games on cold winter nights…
Goodnight kisses, “Welcome Home,” hugs, laughter, tears, and, sweet, sweet memories…
Gifts that I’m learning to hold in an open hand, freely given, freely accepted, freely given away.
Gifts that were given for a time and purpose.
Gifts that were never meant to last forever.
And that verse in James, it hits me full to the brim with truth and meaning. In a life full of good and perfect gifts, the only unchanging gift I have is Christ.
There is an Alison Krauss song that I love with lines that speak to the tendency I have to hold onto the changing things of this world instead of God’s perfect love for me:
“Hurting brings my heart to you, my fortress in the storm,
When what I’ve wrapped my heart around is gone.
I give my heart so easily to the ruler of this world,
When the One who loves me most will give me all.” (From “There is a Reason for It All”)
This Christmas, this year, instead of wrapping gifts for each other, what if we wrapped our hearts around Jesus? What if we looked at our lives and found that every good and perfect gift is from above but that God is the only gift unchanging?
James, he must have known how our human hearts get twisted, get wrapped around other things. And that’s why he reminds us, here, in this verse about gifts, in this verse about a world full of shifting shadows that God doesn’t change.
The giver of gifts, the Father of stars doesn’t change. Our souls can rest in him. Your soul can rest in him. In a season of gifts, and change, and blessings that come to an end, my soul can rest in him.
This Christmas, this year, in the gifts that are given, in the changes that come, in the blessings and shadows that shift and fade, may Christ be your good, your perfect, your unchanging gift.