’Tis the season of gifts. Giving and receiving happens as at no other time of the year. I wonder how this tradition escalated to the extreme that it is in most households. To be sure, we need to learn how to be generous and give good gifts like our heavenly Father. But I want to learn to give more meaningful gifts than the average exchange.
When I was a college student studying music, I came home for one of my breaks. My grandmother, who lived next to us in a two-family house, loved to listen to me playing the piano and singing. She was so proud of me and what I was becoming that she decided to take me to the big city to go shopping at her favorite department store. Now Grandma rarely got out of the house. And she had never taken one or her grandchildren shopping. So it was a big deal!
We went to the women’s department to shop for a dress. We found not one, but two stunning outfits that I couldn’t choose between. So she bought them both. I had never been treated to such a lavish gift. Our family didn’t have much monetarily. We were rich in other ways. These exquisite dresses were the nicest garments I had ever owned.
After we returned home, I overheard Grandma telling a friend about the adventure, and how she realized that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” I thought, “How can that be possible?” I couldn’t imagine how she could be happier than I was. Now that I’m older I’m learning how that’s possible. There is great joy in giving something meaningful to someone who appreciates it.
Every Christmas season I try to come up with creative gifts to give my children and grandchildren. Things that have personal value and will be kept and considered special after I’m gone. One year it was a poem for each person assembled in a little booklet. Another year it was a family history notebook with lots of pictures. Last year I made little painted initials for everyone. This year I, who am not a seamstress, am sewing some things. Oh dear, now I’ve given away part of the secret to those of you who are family.
Anyway, I challenge you to start thinking about next year. How can you come up with a project that will be meaningful to the family because you made it? Isn’t that better than a shirt or gift card? You have special relationships and unique insights into the people you love. Work at expressing your appreciation for them by creating something that goes beyond monetary value. It doesn’t have to be a work of art. Maybe it’s a letter.
During this season we focus on the gift of God: His precious Son. We want to reciprocate, but what can we give that has meaning? Nothing can compare to His indescribable gift. My favorite Christmas poem by Christina Rossetti asks and answers this question. “What can I give Him poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a wise man, I would do my part. Yet what can I give Him? Give Him my heart.”
It’s amazing that my heart is of value to the Lord. But that’s what He wants. And that’s the most I can do. When my heart is His, He can use it to bless others. Does your heart belong wholly to God today? Does your gift to Him become a gift to those around you?