The Gift: Anne Mateer

I was a junior or senior in high school. I can’t quite remember. I only know that I had carried from my childhood into my late teens an insatiable curiosity about the gifts wrapped beneath the Christmas tree. I looked and handled and shook everything with my name attached. Usually that satisfied the itch of not knowing until Christmas morning, but that particular year one gift held my attention over the rest: a heavy, rectangular package, very much the shape of an extremely thick book.

I loved books even then, especially long books. But what book could this be? It seemed to be twice as thick as any I owned. What title would render so many pages? What wonders awaited me between its covers?

Day after day, I pondered, until I felt I simply could not wait for Christmas day. The anticipation of just “a book” wasn’t enough. I needed to anticipate the actual story it contained. And so, alone in the house, I picked up my package, crept into the bathroom, and locked the door. Perched on the edge of the tub, I gently pried the tape away from the paper, unfolded it, slipped the book from its casing and . . . frowned.

JANE AUSTEN stared at me in large letters. Never heard of her. The English countryside on the dust jacket looked interesting, but the six titles that paraded beneath the name were just bewildering.

Pride and Prejudice
Sense and Sensibility
Mansfield Park
Northanger Abbey

What had my mother been thinking? Why would I be interested in such odd-sounding titles by a person no one I knew had ever read? I wrapped the book back up again and slipped it in a dark corner under the tree. On Christmas morning, I quickly ripped the paper from the book, said my thank-you, and set it aside.

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Three years passed. As a bride of almost one year, I sat in a college class on the English novel, enraptured with the discussion about the book we’d all just read—Emma by Jane Austen. I adored it. Wanted to read everything Jane Austen had written. Eventually, I found copies of each one and read them. But it wasn’t until several years later, unpacking books after moving into our first house, that I found my gift again, that big book holding all of Jane Austen’s novels. I ran my hand over the gilt letters stamped into the dark cover, the paper jacket long gone, and remembered. Remembered my disdain for the gift. Remembered my subsequent joy in discovering each of Jane Austen’s stories.

That book found a prominent and permanent place in my home. Not just the collected works of an author I loved, but a reminder that sometimes a gift doesn’t inspire fireworks of appreciation in the moment of the giving, but becomes a priceless treasure as time passes. And isn’t that kind of the point of Christmas? A baby in a manager didn’t look all that exciting or new or world-changing. But thirty-three years later, the empty tomb revealed the true value of His gift.

I’m glad I didn’t toss aside the gift of Jane Austen all those years ago, but I’m even more thankful that God’s patience allows us time to discover the depths of the gift He has given to us—that priceless, eternal gift of love and life and righteousness to which no other gift will ever compare.

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What was the most meaningful gift you ever received?

Connect with Anne on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.


Most Recent Release: A Home for My Heart

Home for My Heart

When an unexpected opportunity arises at the orphanage where she works, will Sadie have to choose between marrying her beau and a job she loves?

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