I found this great meditation in this little book called "Moments for Pastors" by Robert Strand. It is titled "Part of the Gift."
A missionary was sent to Africa to be part of a ministry already in the works. This man had been raised on the Pacific Coast of the United States and loved the ocean. He had hoped that when sent to Africa he would be stationed in an area next to the ocean. His wish was not fulfilled., and when upon his arrival he found his mission station was 85 miles inland from the coast.
He determined to make the best of his assignment. Part of his responsibilities involved teaching a Bible school in the area. It had been set up to provide ministerial training for the natives so that they could be effective evangelists to their own people.
In his teaching, many times this missionary-teacher would draw upon the ocean for his illustrative material. Often he talked of his great love for the ocean which he missed being this far inland. His students made note of his affection for the sea.
In the course of his teaching he began to teach about the fact that much of the Christian life is one of giving. He spoke about Christ being given as a special gift to this earth when He came as a babe in a manger. He shared with the native students about Christmas. He wasn't at all sure that the concept had been picked up, but he did the best he know how. Then there was time for a break in the school year as the students were dismissed for a two week period.
One day during this break there was a knock on his door. The missionary went to the door to see one of his students standing there with a huge smile on his face. Upon taking a closer look he noticed that the young man had scratches on his face, arms and legs. His clothes looked like he had been on a long trek through jungle and formidable terrain. There was a tiredness about the young man. However, in his hands this black man was holding a basketful of sea shells. Obviously they were not to be found locally. Then it dawned on the missionary - this young man had walked to the ocean to bring them back. " Here is a gift from the ocean," the young man beamed.
The missionary was almost overcome with emotion as he replied "But you have walked almost 170 miles to do this!" His black face showed surprise and delight. He pulled himself to his full height and said, "Long walk is part of the gift!"
I wish I could say I saw the punchline coming, but I didn't. The truth is that we often take things like this for granted. When someone sees our need and they go through the trouble to meet it, we appreciate it but we rarely fully understand the cost. That is the reality behind all gifts that are truly personal and heartfelt. When God gave us his only begotten son, he gave up so much that we will never know. Yet in giving up the gift, he opened the door for a whole world of grace and forgiveness and new relationships. We see Jesus but the best part of the gift was the love and sacrifice that brought it about.
So praise God today and give thanks for that part of the gift that made it all possible.