Giving and Receiving on Christmas

With Christmas less than a week away, many of us are very concerned about giving as we race around to try to finish our shopping for everyone on our lists. (I know I’m nowhere near finished, and this may finally be the year that everyone gets funny socks.)

But as I was listening to the liturgy in church before the offertory (“Remember, it is more blessed to give than to receive.), I started thinking about as prepared as we are to give, are we truly prepared to receive? We all know the value of giving—and the hope for the blessings giving confers—but it really struck me yesterday was what about the person who receives? Are there no blessings there?

I think there are.

When someone gives you a Christmas present, they have acknowledged you in some very special way. They have either thought about you and something you would like, or they have spent their time and money to fulfill a desire of yours. In a perfect world, we take time to appreciate that there is another person who has acknowledged us, thought about us and invested in us.

If you celebrate the holiday in the Christian tradition, you know the Three Kings who came to visit the Christ Child brought gifts. Mary didn’t register for those, by the way. They were intended to be symbolic. Gold represented that Christ was a king; frankincense that he was a priest and a teacher and myrrh, used in embalming that Christ was also human and, despite His divinity, would die. These were rare and expensive gifts designed to pay tribute and to honor and recognize the recipient.

That, on an incredibly reduced scale, has always been the pleasure for me in giving gifts, that it says something about my relationship with a recipient, a way to share something with another person. I hope you’ve had the pleasure of opening a gift and heard why the person giving it you chose it for you.

As the recipients, it’s our chance to feel and experience the love and attention that someone has chosen to give you. The fact that someone else thought about you is a kind of blessing and certainly something to be grateful for—over and above whatever the literal gift is.

That’s why I’m always shocked when I hear that a child (or an adult) is focused more on the item than the action and the motivation behind it, and the hurt that can be involved when they lose sight of the blessing. Teaching our kids to be grateful receivers is important. Duplicates can be exchanged, as can the wrong color or size, but letting someone know how grateful you are that they thought of you strengthens relationships. Being the grateful recipient of a present is, in a way, a kind of gift that one returns immediately. The expressing of gratitude is a kind of blessing and one that we should always remember to give even as we receive.

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