The Three Gifts of Christmas

It’s Christmas time again! It is that most wonderful time of the year! Though not everyone can make that statement, I hope it is true for you.

One of the great traditions of Christmas is the exchange of gifts. I still smile when I think of the excitement my siblings and I experienced trying to sleep on Christmas Eve when we were children. My parents had a rule that we could retrieve our stockings filled with an orange (always, an orange) along with candy, a new pair of socks, and a small gift, such as a pocketknife any time after midnight. But, we couldn’t wake them up until after 6am to open our gifts under the tree. My parents always made Christmas special!

Gift-giving probably dates to the Biblical account of the wise men that visited the Christ-child after His birth. These “Magi” brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh as the first Christmas gifts. Through the years, the practice of giving gifts has blossomed into the commercial bonanza that we experience today.

Today, I would like to offer my suggestion for three gifts this Christmas that will not only bless others but could be life-changing to you. These gifts might cost you nothing financially, but, in a sense, they could cost you everything. Confusing, yes, so you’ll have to keep reading to understand what I mean.

Here are my suggestions for three gifts this Christmas that could make this the very best Christmas of your life:

Gift #1 – Allow yourself to truly enjoy Christmas this year

The first gift I would like to describe is to allow yourself to put aside the expectations, routines, and efforts that make Christmas a stressful time for so many. Allow yourself to simplify your Christmas this year and be blessed by the sights, sounds, and feelings.

Too many individuals are trying to juggle so many balls at Christmas that they end up dropping them all. At work, you are feverishly trying to complete important projects before the end of the year. Your kids have extra commitments with school programs, parties, gifts for teachers, and events. You are trying to avoid the last-minute rush to buy Christmas gifts… if you can even think of great gifts to buy! You have company coming, so you want the house to be just perfect and the food to be the best. Your aging parents need your attention. You haven’t even called your best friend in weeks! Sometimes, we simply try to do so much that we miss the joy of Christmas.

This year, try something different. Say no to those extra things that you know you won’t have time to do. Try giving gift cards instead of finding that perfect unique gift. Get carry-out pizza instead of preparing homemade lasagna with French bread. Simplify! Then, use the extra time to take a drive and see the Christmas lights. Spend an evening walking through your downtown shops rather than the mall. Grab an afghan, snuggle with your sweetie, and watch a Hallmark Christmas movie or two. Make candy or cookies… and eat some dough in the process. Go to a Christmas program at a school or church even if you have no family members participating.

In other words, what is it about Christmas that you remember most as a child? What of those things have you not done in years? Now, make a commitment to go do that again.

I remember going Christmas caroling as a child. It was an activity we did as Boy Scouts, and we visited the community adult care facilities and sang for the residents. Last Christmas, we spread the word that we needed to do that at one of our local facilities. It turned out to be great fun! We took requests from the residents and many of them sang along with us. We had a chance to share what Christmas means to us and cookies were shared by the residents. We left that night with a fresh perspective of the true joy of Christmas!

What is it that you miss about Christmas that you can do this year? Consider it a gift to yourself to simplify your life and find a way to rekindle that warm feeling of love and happiness that makes Christmas special.

Gift #2 – Be a blessing to someone else this Christmas

The next gift we need to discuss is the gift that you can be to someone else. How are you planning to bless someone else this Christmas? I’m not necessarily talking about giving gifts… material gifts… but, pouring your life into that of someone else.

One of the things that I believe has changed over the last few decades is a shift in focus from others to self. I believe many individuals today are focused on self-fulfillment, self-gratification, self-care, individuality, “staying within yourself” … rather than on doing for others. What happened to “do unto others” or “ask not what your country can do for you…”?

This Christmas would be the perfect time for each of us to find a way – or a way every day – to make a difference for someone else. John Bunyan once said,

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

Serving others is the simplest definition of selflessness. Putting your own needs and desires aside to meet the needs of someone else is what makes us human. And it is impossible to focus on your own hurts, stress, and difficulties when you are striving to make a difference for someone else.

Just a couple days ago, I visited a man in a full-time care facility that is suffering from severe dementia. At least five times in the few minutes with him, he suddenly broke down in tears. Some hidden sad memory kept resurfacing and he experienced the grief from that event over-and-over again all day long. When you experience and share the burdens of another, the load you carry seems much lighter, if you can even remember you’re carrying it at all.

You might ask, “What can I do to serve someone else? How can I make my gift of service real to another?” The best advice I can give is to simply look around. It is difficult to walk one block without seeing some way you can make a difference to someone else. Some ways to serve are small and simple, like picking up something dropped or opening a door or being kind to a service person. Other meaningful ways to serve might involve more intentionality, such as running errands for someone that is home-bound.

Perhaps the greatest way you can serve another this Christmas is with your time. Think back 5 years ago… who was important in your life then that you haven’t seen or spoken to in longer than a year? How about 10 years ago? Would it be difficult to take a few minutes to make a phone call or write a personal note? Or, better yet, make some cookies and personally deliver them.

When you take time to serve someone else, you are giving a part of yourself which is more valuable than anything you could buy. Make this Christmas special by blessing someone else.

Gift #3 – Accept God’s greatest gift to us this Christmas

The entire purpose of Christmas is to celebrate the greatest gift ever given… the only Son of God born in the most humble circumstance possible. You might ask, “Why was the birth of Jesus Christ so important? Why is it a big deal today? Does it matter for me personally?” Let me try to answer these questions.

Humans are born innocent but tainted with a tendency to do wrong. We are not naturally inclined to love others and always do what is right. Our default is to serve ourselves first. This is called sin. We all have the problem of sin in our lives because we are the offspring of Adam, the original sinner, and because we individually seek our own will, not God’s will.

This sin problem separates us from God. He is Holy and our sin creates a brokenness that had to be repaired. That was why Jesus was sent to earth. God’s Son became flesh on that first Christmas. He lived a perfect life but was murdered on a cross. He was buried but rose from the dead on the third day. His death and resurrection paid the penalty that we could never pay for ourselves. As a result of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, God now accepts us as His children for all who believe and accept Jesus as Savior (He paid our debt) and Lord (He is Supreme, and we owe everything to Him). If you simply believe in your heart that Jesus is God’s Son, ask Him to forgive you for your sin, accept Him, and commit your life to serving Him, He promises that you will live forever with Him in heaven.

Essentially, God gave Jesus as a free gift. All we must do to inherit eternal life in heaven is to accept that free gift. That is all… there is nothing we can do to earn it… no one else can accept that gift in our place… Believing and receiving that gift that is the beginning of an amazing journey while we live and an unending eternity after our days here are complete.

Too many individuals think that becoming a believer in God is more complex than it really is. They believe that they need to get their lives straightened out first. Or, that God could never forgive someone that has done what they have done. Let me quote a Bible verse (Romans 5:8) that means a lot to me, “God demonstrates His love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In the midst of our very worst, God gave His very best! All we need to do is yield ourselves to Him and receive Him.

I accepted God’s gift of Jesus when I was twenty-one years old. When I did, God helped me to become a completely different person. Now, I have a hope and a purpose for my life that didn’t exist before. My purpose is to serve God by loving Him and loving others. My hope is a confidence that God is faithful and is preparing for me to spend eternity in heaven with Him. That is the big deal about Christmas!

So, that is my hope for you… that you will embrace these 3 gifts of Christmas in ways you’ve never done before. My hope is that this Christmas is more special than any you ever enjoyed and that you will be the source of joy for everyone around you. Please accept my challenge to accept and give these wonderful gifts of Christmas.

If you are looking for other thoughts on Christmas past, present, and future, feel free to see my other previous posts on this topic. Some of these include: “Christmas Memories” (Christmas Memories); “What makes Christmas so magical” (What makes Christmas so magical?); “The Christmas Kitten” (The Christmas Kitten); “What is your hope?” (What is your hope?); “I have seen the light” (I have seen the light!); and “The Five Superheroes of Christmas” (The Five Superheroes of Christmas). I hope this is your best Christmas yet!

What does it take to live an extraordinary life?

Today, I would like to feature an excerpt from my most recent book, “Yes, you can change your circumstances.” (Amazon says there is still time to get delivery by Christmas… at least where I live… so, if you find this excerpt challenging, perhaps the full book might be an excellent gift for yourself. You can find it at when searching under Eldon Henson.)

As we approach the end of the year, some introspection is a good thing. How have I lived this year and what should change, especially regarding my mind, heart, and hands, for the upcoming new year? You’ll find below the Introduction to this book which provides an overview of the 340 pages that follow.



What does it take to live an extraordinary life?

How do we know when a life is extraordinary? What is the difference between an ordinary life and one that is amazing, fulfilling, impactful, and meaningful? My definition of an extraordinary life is one marked or characterized by the attributes and actions contained in three key words:

  • MIND
    • character
    • attitudes that drive the heart and hands
    • how we act when no one is around (integrity)
    • hope
    • mental toughness
    • joy
    • the outpouring of the heart that provides a reflection of the individual
    • internal peace
    • positive view of life
    • choices/decisions
    • impact
    • actions that make a difference to others
    • steps
    • growth
    • intentionality
    • legacy

To introduce this work, I would like to briefly speak of each of these three components of character that you will read about in coming chapters. Then, I hope to tie them together in a way that provides a description of extraordinary at the end.


In one of my previous books (Achieving your best day yet!), I spoke about the importance of character. In essence, character is what has been cultivated in your mind that results in behaviors, actions, and impact. In that piece is outlined a list of 33 attributes that mark a life of character:

  1. Gratitude – Does the individual express a genuine sense of thankfulness for what they have, what others do for them, and the blessings in life they have been gifted?
  2. Self-discipline – Does the individual possess the ability to get things done without nagging, urging, or threats? Does the person habitually fulfill their commitments?
  3. Willingness and ability to work – Does the individual do their share, especially without being told? Has the person learned the value and benefits from work?
  4. Hope – Does the individual have a sense of hope for the future and something on which to base that hope? Does the individual live in the present and look forward to the future more than longing for or regretting the past?
  5. An attitude of service – Does the individual put others before self? Does the person seek ways and opportunities to make life better for someone else?
  6. Faith/Optimism – Does the individual live with a sense that “this could be their best day yet”? Does the person express an attitude that lifts others? Is the person confident in whatever the future might hold?
  7. Contentment – Does the individual have a sense of satisfaction in their life? Has the person learned the art of being content, yet without sacrificing a desire to improve?
  8. Desire to improve – Does the individual seek to learn from mistakes? Is the person seeking ways to enhance skills, abilities, and mind?
  9. Responsibility – Does the individual assume responsibility or accountability for his/her own actions? Will the person typically “do what they say they will do”?
  10. Compassion – Does the person truly care about others? Do the person’s actions show a heart-felt compassion for the feelings and circumstances of others?
  11. Humility – Is the person allowing their actions to speak louder than their words? Do they downplay their own contributions while enhancing that of others?
  12. Perseverance – Will the person stay-with-it long enough to finish the task? Does the person finish what they start? Are they in it for the long haul?
  13. Joy – Does the person have a genuinely happy disposition? Has the individual learned to express joy even when circumstances are negative?
  14. Peace-loving – Does the person seek to bring about peace and consensus? Does the person diffuse negative circumstances?
  15. Generosity – Does the person willingly give sacrificially to others? Does the person seek opportunities to share what they must make a difference for others?
  16. Kindness – Is the person kind to everyone in every situation? Does the person show the same level of kindness to those that can do nothing for them in return as they would for a VIP?
  17. Purity – Does the person strive to be faithful, pure, and “clean” in what he/she says, does, supports, and encounters?
  18. Courage – Is the person willing to stand up for what is right, even in the face of opposition? Will the person defend the defenseless?
  19. Trust – Can the person be trusted in all things? Does he/she trust others?
  20. Sense of self-worth – Does the person have a healthy understanding of their own worth to others and God? Does the person hold their head high or cower under pressure?
  21. Respect for others – Does the person appreciate and respect the opinions, abilities, backgrounds, skills, and personality of others?
  22. Mercy – Does the person express forgiveness and mercy frequently and freely?
  23. Justice – Does the person seek that which is right, true, and fair? Does the person stand up for those that cannot do so for themselves?
  24. Self-control – Does the person control their words, actions, and attitudes appropriately even when they are being mistreated?
  25. Honesty and integrity – Can the person be counted on to be truthful and honest in all situations? Would others name this individual if asked to name individuals with integrity?
  26. Willingness to submit to authority – Is the person willing to submit to others in authority over them? Do they respect their boss, their parents, and government officials? Is rebellion a normal response to not getting their own way?
  27. Love – Does the person willingly express love for others? Is this individual willing to freely express their thoughts about and to others?
  28. Confidence – Does the individual exude a sense of confidence in who they are and what they do? Will they look you in the eye when speaking? Is their handshake firm?
  29. Desire for excellence – Does the individual seek to do their best in all things, small or large? Does the person strive to do things well rather than cut corners?
  30. Desire to learn from others – Does the individual freely accept the teaching and counsel of others?
  31. Desire to develop and enhance relationships – Does the individual understand and appreciate the importance of connecting personally with others? Does the person seek genuine relationships rather than less personal social connections?
  32. Genuineness – Is the person the same in private as in public? Does the person express one persona with friends and another at work? Can you say about the person, “What you see is what you get?”
  33. Love for God – Does the individual know God and outwardly express a love for Him? Is the person seeking to know God more and better? Does the individual live in a way in which he/she seeks to please God?


I believe that heart is synonymous with joy to a very large extent. When your heart is full, when it is full in the right way, the joy of your life will overflow to those around you. And it will be manifested in your impact to others.

M. Ahlers once said of joy:

“Joy is a choice based on being content regardless of circumstances. Understanding what encourages joy in your life can help you cultivate it and build up your resources for when circumstances are difficult.” M. Ahlers

I appreciate that Ahlers speaks of four key aspects of joy:

  1. It is a choice – We can choose to have joy. We can impact our level of joy. In short, the absence of joy is because we have chosen so.
  2. It is unaffected by circumstances – Joy does not rise and fall based on what happens. Certainly, our happiness during any day can be high or low, but joy is our base that should remain relatively consistent.
  3. It can be cultivated and built up – However, we can impact the joy within us. It can grow or decline… again by our choice. It is impacted by how we feed our minds and what we allow into our hearts.
  4. It can sustain us – Joy can get us through our most difficult times. It can be a source of comfort… or hope.

So, as we look at matters of the heart… of joy… let’s consider how a full heart can make a difference to those around us in positive ways.


Ultimately, an extraordinary life can only occur if our mind and heart drive action that impacts others through our actions (e.g., hands). It is not enough to merely be a warehouse of right attitudes with a desire to impact others. Unless our attitudes and desires result in action, we are, as the Bible says, merely a clanging cymbal or noisy gong (see I Corinthians 13:1).

So, what actions mark an extraordinary life? What is it that you see that demonstrates impactful hands? To me, the greatest indicator of this would be love. An extraordinary life is one marked by love for others. When you love others, you serve them, you support them, you benefit them, and you make them better simply by your presence. An extraordinary life is one that impacts others in a positive way. But an extraordinary life cannot occur without introspection and intentional effort.

This work is divided into the three components of an extraordinary life… mind, heart, and hands. The components of each section are intended to show through examples, lists, quotes, and thoughts how we can mold ourselves into more content and impactful individuals. In essence, when our attitudes create in us righteous desires, more extraordinary actions should result. Hopefully, the nuggets of experience that I have accumulated over my nearly 7 decades of life incorporated here will stimulate in you a desire to grow in character, strengthen your resolve to impact others, and produce a life legacy that lives well beyond your years.