Many moons ago (1987), Jeanne and I were invited to a Christmas party. It was being held at a friend’s house.
There were instructions on the invitation. Each person was to bring a “gag gift.” They would be anonymous. There was a $5 limit on the price.
I was thankful that this was plainly spelled out. At that time, I was in my internship year, and serving a church in Tacoma. Financially, things were tight.
For her gift, Jeanne made lefse and included a packet of cinnamon sugar. I told her that lefse was hardly a gag gift, but I wasn’t going to argue beyond that.
So, I made my modest purchase at the local Safeway store. I spied it on the shelf while I was dutifully pushing the shopping cart behind my wife. When we got home to the apartment, I wrapped it in festive paper and stuck a pretty bow on for good measure.
I chuckled at the whole thing. In my mind, the gift was simply brilliant. It followed the instructions. It was a gag gift. It was under $5. It was perfect. I couldn’t wait for the party.
When we arrived, Jeanne and I joined about 30 others. The only people we knew were the hosts. When it came time for the anonymous gift exchange we all gathered into the open dining and living room space.
We drew numbers. This determined the order of who would choose a gift. The next person had the option of keeping the gift they had unwrapped or “stealing” a gift that had already been opened.
The person with the number 1 chose her gift and opened it. She carefully peeled back the paper on the small box which soon revealed its contents. It was a china cup and saucer. It was then that I gave a frightened glance to my wife and whispered between my clenched teeth: “I think we’re in trouble.”
Well, actually, that would be me. Jeanne gave the lefse, after all (which ended up being “stolen” at least twice).
When the gift of pig’s feet in a jar was unwrapped, I didn’t utter a word. At least I had followed the instructions.
When Jesus instructs us to love one another, he really meant it. This isn’t a joke. It is not to be dismissed or ignored. So, please take the time to re-read the directions.
Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and has served as parish pastor for more than 25 years.