November 29, 2018
We are entering into the season of parcels, packages and presents with surprises and secrets inside. The anticipation will build over this Advent season until we arrive at Christmas morning. You may be a mall shopper, an Amazon warrior, or perhaps even a crafty Kris Kringle, but it is hard not to get caught up in this side of the Christmas season. Regardless of whether presents are under the Christmas tree or parcels are arriving on the front doorstep, there is excitement and speculation about what the boxes contain. Gift giving and receiving make us feel special, representing a tangible acknowledgement of the valuable gifts we are to each other.
Here are a few things I try to bear in mind as I give and receive, both literally and figuratively:
Handle your gifts with care.
As tempting as it is to shake a parcel to determine its contents, we all know that there are risks. You might be shaking pyjamas or it could be a delicate electronic device (bought on a final sale…) Just as wrapping paper and carboard hide what is inside, we can unwittingly cause each other damage if we are not careful. Each of us has our fragile parts; it is best to give each gift (and person) the respect deserved and wait until it is ready to be opened.
Gifts must be freely given and graciously received.
However beautiful ribbons are, it is important that we give gifts with no strings attached. To be a true giver, you can’t have any expectations of the person who receives the gift. They may be unwilling or unable to give you something back. At other times, you will receive a surprise gift and have nothing planned in return, and your only option is to simply respond with heartfelt thanks. The Spirit works in mysterious ways, even in those awkward exchanges. Each of us has times when we are called to give and times when we need to receive.
Don’t focus on the wrapping.
We have all heard the maxim don’t judge a book by the cover and it is equally true that one shouldn’t judge a present by its wrappings. The prettiest paper could contain that garish Christmas sweater, while the brown paper package could contain your heart’s delight. Value, whatever the gift, is found deeper inside.
Some of the best gifts are those we didn’t know we needed.
There may have been an occasion when you scratched your head over an odd gift that came your way, wondering what were they thinking, and responding with a befuddled, “Um,… thanks!.” Later the same quirky present may become the one we most value. Time and further reflection can allow us the grace to find gifts in items and circumstances that seem out of place and or even difficult.
As you gather around the tree this season, I hope you consider the extraordinary gifts you have received, in all the wonderful and wacky packages in which they have arrived. Treat them with the care they deserve. Remember, too, that you are gift to others. Allow yourself, with all your own fragility, to be opened to others. It is kind of cliché, but let your presence be your presents. Finally, be thankful for the child in the manger, our greatest gift and guide. In these ways we can truly honour the spirit of gift giving this Christmas.