University Congregational Church
March 8, 2020
The 5 Love Languages – Giving Gifts
This week has been exciting! I heard from a 90-year-old husband who, (like my husband), vacuums as an act of love and service. I heard about a mom who listened to Christmas music when her child requested it this week instead of regular bedtime music – without arguing that it is March – because she loves the child! I heard from a wife that her husband quietly got the bed linens out of the dryer, went upstairs and made the bed without saying a word to her. She asked him if he did this because of the sermon last week and he just grinned! One wife tended to her partner’s favorite decorative perennials even though they are not her favorite. Your acts of service are helping all of us feel more love! I know they brightened my week.
We are talking about love languages during Lent at UCC – various ways people give and receive love – and how we can better express our love to the people in our lives. Last week’s love language was “Acts of Service”: doing tasks to serve another person’s need or desire with a positive spirit out of love. I mentioned that my husband, Eric, is an expert at acts of service. He regularly takes care of these tasks around our home and I am grateful. I especially appreciate a cup of hot coffee when I drag myself out of bed!
Today’s love language is giving and receiving gifts. This is a love language I know a bit about. I’ll let you decide if gifting is my love language. (and it’s okay if you laugh a little with me)
• I carry a Christmas list in my purse all year long. It has ideas in pencil, purchased items with a check mark, highlighted items that have been wrapped and if I am finished purchasing for a person, their name is highlighted in a different color. This process begins Dec. 26th.
• I give gifts to my children, nieces and nephews on every holiday, including Valentine’s Day, Easter, 4th of July, the beginning of school and Halloween
• I begin wrapping Christmas gifts in October – each year has a different motif with a color scheme, various matching ribbon and paper combinations, ornaments and picks for the bows, and a handmade bow on every package.
• If I travel internationally, I am likely to leave clothing and shoes in hotels so that I can pack gifts to bring back for people at home.
• When my children were in college – and now that my nieces are in college – I send bi-monthly care packages to them with various homemade gifts and snacks.
• I still – in my late 50’s – make multiple homemade, cut out Valentines for every person in my extended family and mail them as if I were in grade school.
I realize that there is counseling available for people who are obsessive about these things… it’s just that I really love them, and I could quit giving gifts anytime.
A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, “Look, he was thinking of me, “or, “She remembered me.” You must me thinking of someone to give him/her a gift. The gift itself is a symbol of that thought; gifts are visual symbols of love. But visual symbols of love are more important to some people than to others. I was shocked when Eric picked me up on Christmas Eve the first year we were dating and wanted to go shopping at 7:00 pm because he had not yet determined what he was getting his family for Christmas! The difference between people’s attitude on gifts also explains why some people never take off the ring they exchange on their wedding day and others don’t even wear a wedding band.
Of course, gifts can be purchased, found, or made. They don’t have to be expensive, but they may be an investment in a relationship that is invaluable. If someone you love has gifting as their love language, giving gifts to them will help them feel loved and speak to them of their value to you. Of course, the important thing is not the gift – it is the emotional love that was communicated by the gift.
In the gospel of Mark, the disciples of Jesus are often portrayed as bumbling around not truly understanding what Jesus was doing or why he was doing it. He must re-direct them regularly. In today’s traditional word, the disciples have failed again to understand Jesus’ words about his impending death. But an unnamed woman has recognized the truth and anoints him with costly oil…
While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” Mark 14:3-9
Jesus defends the woman’s actions against those who criticize her in the name of the poor. This is a lavish gesture – breaking and pouring out the entire vial of expensive ointment rather than using a few drops. She is compared to the widow who gave all that she had as an offering. These women are contrasted in the gospel to those who are not as generous and do not understand what Jesus came to do. Jesus says that she will be remembered whenever the gospel is preached, because she recognizes and honors Jesus with a gift.
For someone whose love language is gifting, there is an intangible gift that sometimes speaks even louder than a physical gift. It is a gift of self – the gift of one’s presence. “Being there when someone you love needs you speaks loudly to a person whose primary love language is receiving gifts”, writes Gary Chapman.
This week, I noticed a picture of a dog with one of those cones on his head. The dog was laying down and looked defeated, sad. You could tell the dog was having a tough day. Inside the cone, right beside the forlorn face of the dog was a small cat… snuggled up – ear to ear and cheek to cheek with the dog 10 times its size. The caption read, “When someone is going through a rough time, just sit with them. No preaching. No advice. Just be there.” For someone whose love language is gifts, your physical and emotional presence with them when they need it is a gift. When they are grieving, hospitalized, having a terrible day, sick, or even when they are celebrating something significant – they want the people they love to show up. The presence of their loved ones is a gift to them. In Chapman’s words, “Physical presence in the time of crisis is the most powerful gift you can give if your loved one’s primary love language is gifts. Your body become the symbol of your love. Remove the symbol, and the sense of love evaporates.”
At the same time, a gift without emotional connection will not really matter to someone whose love language is gifts. For example. Sometimes parents who are divorcing will shower their children with gifts to try to demonstrate love and gain favor with the child or children. Those children will quickly learn, however, whether the parents follow up with phone calls, quality time, physical presence at important events in their lives, and genuine love. The child will be able to sense whether the gift giving is a substitute for actual love or a genuine act of a greater love that includes these other behaviors. Shallow gift giving does not fill the needs of emotional needs for people whose love language is gifting.
Each person in the workplace has a love language as well. What makes employees feel valued and appreciated varies accordingly. Being well paid and verbally thanked is important, but employees may appreciate other forms of acknowledgement according to their love language. For people whose love language is gifting, one possibility is giving them gift cards, tickets to events, or some other expression of appreciation. It is important to note, however, that the gift should reflect something about them personally. People who value gifts as an act of appreciation tend to react negatively when everyone is given the same item because to them it demonstrates that the giver didn’t think about what each person would enjoy. One way to counter this is to have the supervisors send a handwritten note along with a gift to make even a standard gift personalized – it gives evidence of time and effort on the company’s part.
Each week during Lent, we will talk about a different love language and how it affects your relationships with family, friends and colleagues. It is important to know your own love language – and to tell those important to you the best ways to reach out to you. Don’t leave them guessing about what matters most and how to make you feel important. That is your responsibility.
At the same time, you can ask those you care about to tell you what their love language is! Is it…?
• Acts of Service
• Receiving Gifts
• Quality Time
• Physical Touch
• Words of Affirmation
This week think about the people in your life and consider which person might need a gift…. And then give them something small. It can be new or used, homemade, but given specifically with them in mind. And remember the woman whose name we will never know, who poured a whole jar of costly ointment on Jesus to anoint him – just because she wanted to give him a precious gift from her heart. She was the only one who understood it was the last gift he would receive.
“The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary”. Vol. VII. Nashville: Abingdon Press. 2015.
Chapman, Gary & White, Paul. “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace; Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People”. Chicago: Northfield Publishing. 2019.
Chapman, Gary. “The Five Love Languages; How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate”. Chicago: Northfield Publishing. 2004.
Chapman, Gary. “The 5 Love Languages; Singles Edition”. Chicago: Northfield Publishing. 2017.