Three Reflections on Christmas Gift Giving from Desiring God (12/26/09):
"Gifts and events can't fill the soul. God gives us such things to enjoy. They are expressions of his generosity as well as ours, but gifts and celebrations themselves are not designed to satisfy. They're designed to point us to the Giver. Gifts are like sunbeams. We are not meant to love sunbeams but the Sun.
Putting our hope in gifts will leave us empty. Many people live their lives looking for the right sunbeam to make them happy. But if we depend on anything in the world to satisfy our soul's deepest desire, it will eventually leave us with that post-Christmas soul-ache. We will ask, "Is that all?" because we know deep down that's not all there is. We are designed to treasure a Person, not his things.
It is more blessed to give than receive. What kind of happiness this Christmas felt richer, getting the presents that you wanted or making someone else happy with something that you gave to them? Receiving is a blessing, but Jesus is right—giving is a greater blessing. A greedy soul lives in a small, lonely world. A generous soul lives in a wide world of love.
It's just like God to let the glitter and flash of the celebrations (even in his honor) to pass and then to come to us in the quiet, even melancholic void they leave. Because often that's when we are most likely to understand the hope he intends for us to have at Christmas. " (Jon Bloom)
It is so true that giving a gift and making someone happy to receive it is much more fulfilling than just "getting stuff" or working to ensure that transactions are ruled by the principle of "fair trade." True, sometimes we need stuff and it is wonderful when others are gracious to give. But, each year, I go away from Christmas family celebrations feeling full, not because of what I get, but because of the joy I see in others who have received.
This is an important reminder for me, because (and most of you married folks probably are not in tune with this seemingly universal principal) as a single person, I give a present to each of my immediate relatives and their children, whereas each of the family units are able to combine everyone together and give one gift in return. Also, since the youngest and least able to "give back" are the ones who are typically given to the most, it is great to be reminded of what is true and to not be wrapped up measuring relationships by what we receive.
In fact, I think the children are a great example of what the Christmas "exchange" is about. As children they come to the day with their hands empty to receive gifts that are given without any expectation of a gift in return. Free Grace. They receive each gift with joy, excitement and surprise - grateful for the gift. And as a gift giver, my joy in this giving is complete without needing else in return. It really is a true and lovely reminder!
Today, I receive God's greatest treasure, His gracious, free gift of His Son Jesus Christ with joy, excitement, and renewed surprise, knowing that He sees me the same way I see my 8-month-old nephew or my 3-year-old niece; He doesn't need me to give Him a present in return. He is delighted because I am delighted to receive His free gift, like my little niece or nephew, open arms, bright-faced, amazed and surprised. And out of the abundance of what He has given me, I am able to share the same kind of grace to others. May His grace spill out from us as we are filled by His lovingkindness.