Do You Get It?

It is more blessed to give than to receive. – Jesus of Nazareth

The holidays are here and it seems that we could not truly enjoy the celebrations, parties, and events of the season without the use of lists. For Thanksgiving we have a list for groceries, a list for the football schedule on television, a list of relatives to call, and a list of things to buy at the Black Friday sales early the next morning. For Christmas we have lists of gifts to give and to get, a list of people to send cards, a list of parades, events, parties, and get-togethers. We may even have lists of things to do before the end of the year and we will start the New Year with a list of resolutions.

All of these lists serve to keep us organized in an otherwise over-busy time of year. We wait all year for the holidays and before we know it they have come and gone again. We save, plan, budget, plot, scheme, and think about how to get the best gifts at the best prices for those we love, those we like, and those we are obligated to give gifts to because it is after all “the Season of Giving.”

We also hope and hint so that others might get us the gifts we most want. Being grown up makes it a little more difficult than when we were kids. Everyone asks kids what they want for Christmas. But as adults there are times we know what we want, know what it costs, and so we don’t put that on a list anyone will read. Maybe if we get enough gift cards we can get what we really want!

At this time of year it seems there are always complaints about consumerism and greed. Everyone is upset, at least for a few minutes, that the holidays have become so commercial. But then, once the line at the checkout starts to move again, we forget how irritated we were. The problem with commercialism and consumerism has to do with the motives and actions of other people, not with our own desire to make this the best Christmas ever, right?

The people who pepper spray other shoppers in order to get the flat screen TV for themselves, who stomp and trample others even as they are dying on the floor of heart attacks and strokes, those who scratch and claw to get in line, stay in line, and get the best deal – these are the people who reveal the dark underside of holiday shopping. However, how are we any different if we approach the holidays with an eye toward what we can get instead of what we can give?

Thanksgiving and Christmas are after all about giving God thanks for His bountiful provisions and about rejoicing in the promise of salvation declared by angels on high as God gave the best gift ever, sending His Son to be one of us, to live among us, to die for us, and to show us the way to new, everlasting life. The true focus of these special days is placed firmly on giving, not getting. Giving thanks. Giving gifts in order to imitate God as He has given us so much. And yet, we so often slip into selfishness and get carried away, if only for a minute, in the notion that it is better to get than to give.

The moral of the story is this – it is always better to give than receive. This is true not because there is anything inherently wrong with receiving gifts, but it is true because of the focus and attention of the giver. We give gifts, we give joy, we give happiness, we give people the chance to see how much we care about them and love them. We give of ourselves to express our love for others. We see then that the giver and the getter are both blessed when gifts are given. In taking the opportunity to give we find the greatest blessing.

Hopefully we took the time last month to truly give thanks for the people who matter to us. Now this month, let us look to these holy days as an opportunity to give with no thought of getting. Let us be selfless, not selfish. Let us be disappointed not by the gifts we wanted but did not receive, but let us be disappointed that we were not able to spend time with all of those who we love and who love us.

If we are obsessed with getting it becomes about the stuff, not the people. Giving gifts is not about the stuff. It is about the relationships we have. And there we find the true blessing of the holidays – the people we love. For each person in our life this year, let us seek what the angels promised on that first Christmas night so long ago, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14).

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