The most important gift of Christmas
• Christmas is about sharing
Sometime after the birth of Christ on that first Christmas day, the baby and his parents were visited by wise men from the East. They came to honour the sacred occasion with loving gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh. Their kind offering gave rise to a tradition that now seems insepa rable from the Christmas season: giving gifts to those we love.
Stories about gifts of love were later associated with Saint Nicholas and others, whose charitable giving became legendary and served to reinforce the importance of sharing with those around us.
In such giving, it isn’t just the gift that is valuable; it’s the love behind it. The distance the wise men travelled and their love for the newborn King were part of the gift! Indeed, the true spirit of holiday giving is the spirit of love and sacrifice for others.
One young man loves Christmas not because of what he receives but rather because of the delight he finds in giving special gifts to people he loves. He plans his gift-giving for months, deciding on just the right gift for each person on his list. He can’t afford to buy anything expensive or elaborate, but he can afford to give his heart, to think about what would bring joy to the one whose name is carefully written on the tag placed on each gift. Sometimes, when he thinks it would mean the most, the young man gives gifts of his own time and effort, such as a promise to shine shoes, wash a car, or do some other personal service. These are the gifts that both, he and the recipient, usually cherish the most and remember the longest.
This is a lesson that we learn again every Christmas, that it’s the love and sacrifice behind the gift that make it truly meaningful. Of ten the most valued gifts are given by those in need themselves. That’s part of the magic of Christmas: you don’t have to be rich to give gifts that come from a richness of love.
It’s been said that not all of us can do great things but we can do small things with great love. The true spirit of Christmas shines through when even small gifts are given with great love.
Love, family, and faith make Christmas meaningful. Things bought from the store may fill your house and surround Christmas trees, but it doesn’t fill our hearts with joy and contentment for long.
During the holiday season, the more we chase after merchandise, the further we get from the true spirit of the holiday. And how many ends up buying things that they either do not need or cannot afford because they want their loved ones to have a “happy” Christmas. We all know that gifts don’t buy endur ing happiness. In fact, social scientists have confirmed that “chasing possessions tend to make people less happy”.
So if we want our loved ones to have a happy Christmas, we would do well to remember the experi ence of Dr Seuss’s Grinch, who tried to steal Christmas from Whoville by taking away all of its material things, the presents, the feasts, the decorations. But to the Grinch’s great surprise, the people of Who ville still gathered on Christmas morning to sing and to celebrate. Only then did the Grinch realised that Christmas, in its purest form, was much more than he thought it was. It cannot be purchased at any store, and it thrives in our hearts no matter our material possessions.
When we think back on Christ mases, we remember that what made them memorable was not a gift we received, but an experience we had. We recall a happy moment of sharing. We think of a beloved tradition, cherish the gladness of gathering with loved ones, and reread the beloved Christmas story. We remember a warm fire, a snowy night, a favourite song. But we almost never remember the pile of gifts under the tree.
So this year, be deliberate about the holiday activities and traditions that you share with loved ones. Create memories, build loving bonds, and have experiences that outlast throwaway things. Don’t waste the season running from store to store in pursuit of fleeting treasures. Rather, in the words of Him whose birth inspired Christmas, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. . . . For where your trea sure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:20–21).
By Samuel Enos Eghan