Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
At the heart of Christmas, for the majority of people, is the giving of gifts. It is what children dream about and what parents often agonize over. Gift giving has taken center stage during the Christmas season. So, it is valid for us to ask the question, why do we give gifts to one another at Christmas?
Some relate the gifts that the Magi gave to the Christ child as the origin of our practice of giving gifts. The problem with that is that we give gifts to one another, not to Jesus. So, is it wrong to give gifts at Christmas? Some people have come to that conclusion and abstain from the practice. Rightly or wrongly, I am not one of them. The giving gifts is one of the things I enjoy the most about Christmas. I believe that there are many reasons why we give gifts to one another, especially at Christmas. Some of these reasons are good and some are not so good.
Let’s begin with some of the negative reasons for giving gifts. Some people give gifts out of a sense of obligation. It is a part of the Christmas tradition. Although their heart is not in it, they comply in order to fit in with the general expectations of others. They usually are looking for the minimum they can do and still meet expectations.
Some give gifts as a way to draw attention to themselves. They make a point of being the giver of “the best gifts.” They may slip in a mention of what the gift cost or how hard they had to work to find just the right gift. Although they are the giver the attention is squarely focused on them.
Some people give gifts for the purpose of receiving gifts. Here again, the focus is on the giver not the recipient. They are very calculated about gift giving and weigh each gift received against what they themselves have given. They become upset if they feel like they gave more than they have received.
Still others give gifts as a way of winning approval or influencing others. This is often seen in broken families where each side tries to win the hearts of the children by the gifts that they give. It can take place in other families as well, as one person exerts their influence over the others by the gifts that they give. They want everyone to know that they are the most extravagant. They also want others to feel, in some way, obligated to them.
No one would openly admit to having these negative motives for giving gifts, yet in their heart the focus of gift giving is always inward.
Although there are negative reasons for giving gifts, there are also positive reasons for giving gifts. Gifts can be an honest expression of our love for others. Personally, my love language is giving gifts, whether that be in some material thing or in some service I might provide. Giving to the ones we love is a tangible expression of our love for them.
Along with the motive of love is the motive of joy. Giving gifts is one way to bring joy to others. I very much enjoy seeing my children and grandchildren light up when they open the gift that I have chosen for them.
And giving gifts can be an extension of giving oneself to others. Since I became a serious woodworker, I have delighted in making special gifts for others. I have made furniture for my children, toys for my grandchildren and grand nephews, and other items for coworkers and friends. Each piece that I create and give is a part of me, an expression of my love and care for the other person.
God embodied all of the right reasons for giving gifts when He sent Jesus into the world. He gave us Jesus because of His great love for us. God wanted to express His love in a way that people would understand.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
He gave us Jesus to redeem us out of spiritual darkness and restore our joy in Him. When God created humanity, His desire was that we would enjoy a close relationship with Him. Sin damaged that relationship and robbed us of our joy. Jesus came to restore that joy to us.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
God gave us Jesus as a way of giving His very self to us. Throughout the Old Testament, God was honored and revered, but was seen as distant and unapproachable. More than feeling drawn to God, the people were afraid to get too close. There is a story in Exodus where God reveals Himself to the people of Israel through a powerful demonstration of fire and cloud. The people were so afraid that they told Moses to talk with God and then he could relate God’s message to them. But when Jesus came, God came near. Jesus made the intangible God tangible. He made the unapproachable God approachable.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
Most of us will be caught up in the giving and receiving of gifts this Christmas. Done well, it can be a time of great joy and delight. But let us never forget that the real gift of Christmas is Jesus. Just as He give Himself to us, the best way for us to respond is to give ourselves back to Him. It is the gift that He desires above all others.