Today: Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Christmas - unwrapping the presents    (12/28/2008)

Those of us who were lucky enough to receive presents this Christmas have by now opened them, examined them from every angle, and thrown away the wrapping. It's an exciting time, whether our gifts came as a complete surprise or had been long-expected.

I've heard that a true gift always entails some kind of pain for the giver: there is always some element of sacrifice. True, there's the price of the gift, but surely a really good gift is one which took a long time to decide upon... maybe even to save up for?

The best gifts come from the people who know us best: who know what we need, and what we'd like. They're the ones who were there when we expressed interest in things; who watched us pursue our hobbies. All that time, being there, listening and seeing, adds up to a cost. Hopefully, however, it's a sacrifice willingly made, because this is part of the emotional investment which goes into relationship. And all gifts are about relationship.

Of course, receiving a present is only half of the experience; the other half is in the giving, which can involve just as much anticipation and excitement. I'm lucky: my family is easily pleased, so giving presents is nice for me. I've never known anyone return a gift to the shop because they didn't like it enough. I imagine it must be quite painful when someone has spent a long time choosing a gift, only to see that it was ignored or, worse, returned to where it came from either for a cash refund or an exchange.

OK, not every gift is entirely what we would choose for ourselves. But it's important to see beyond the item, to the relationship which brought the gift about. Certainly, we might want to protect the feelings of the giver.

So you've never considered wearing that shade of green before? Try it and see! Never really wanted to pick up a romantic novel? Well, you never know! Sometimes, gifts do miss the bulls-eye, but we should still honour the giver. We should still try the gift out and see whether—perhaps—the giver knows us better than we know ourselves. Who knows, we might look amazing in that new green, and that book might be a life-changer.

We give and receive at Christmas to reflect the gift of the Christ-child. Two thousand years ago, God made a small slit in the fabric which separates heaven from earth, and through it slipped his only son: his gift to humankind. This was a gift long planned, and long foretold. It was a gift which expressed the strength of God's relationship with his children, and his hopes for them.

For some, God's gift was expected, and joyfully received. Others didn't realise this was the long-awaited gift. Some couldn't see past the fact that the ‘wrapping'—the poverty and the stable—didn't match their expectations, and they refused to accept the gift. For others, the gift is a totally unexpected, and totally welcome, surprise.

How do you feel about the gift… will you accept it, or would you prefer to swap it for something else?

Pray: Lord, thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus Christ. Please help me to understand what giving this gift cost you; help me to understand how I should receive this gift. Amen.

Think about: How do you feel when someone gives you a gift... but you don't have one to give in return? Does your embarrassment undo all the pleasure involved in both the giving and the receiving of that one gift? Gifts don't always have to be reciprocal, and those times when we simply receive can be amongst the most meaningful and memorable.

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