Christmas is just round the corner and there is a festive mood in the air. Decorations and colorful lights remind us that Christmas is an occasion for joyful celebration. It is beautiful to witness families and friends gathered around the Christmas tree, singing carols, unwrapping gifts, having a drink, sharing stories, enjoying a meal, and generally having a great time together. It is also a very busy time for quite a few people: last minute shopping for gifts, guests list to be finalized, party arrangements to be seen to, menu to be planned, various parties to be attended, gifts and cards to be mailed… and so it goes on. In all this, the one thing that stands out is time and resources spent on shopping for gifts for family and friends. It would not be an exaggeration to say that one of the salient features of Christmas is gift sharing.
A gift is a manifestation of our love and appreciation for the other. In one sense we express ourselves through our gifts. Gifts are of different types and nature. Some of the gifts that we receive are still unwrapped even after years and some are stacked away in the attic or the basement. Some gifts are given for the sake of giving, more out of formality. Some gifts are given in memory of a loved one. At times, gifts are collection of random things. Few gifts are recycled and few turn up as white elephants. Some are well thought out gifts, beneficial for the one who receives it and other gifts end up in trash as they serve no purpose. Some are meant for mere admiration and few are self-destructive. There are gifts that we cherish for ages and gifts to which we return often. Some come in the form of gift cards and at times givers are directed to the gift registry. Some end up in the showcase and some gifts are constantly used. Few gifts are picked up at random and other gifts after much thought and consideration. There are expensive gifts and there are gifts that hardly cost anything. There are gifts that are material and gifts that are spiritual. ….
In sharing of gifts, the intention of the giver and the intention of the one who receives it are very important. What type of gift that we give to the other, how much of thought and attention goes into getting the proper gift for the other? And once the gift is given, what does the receiver of the gift do with it?
As believers we accept Jesus as the greatest and the most wonderful gift that God has shared with us. Luke tells us, ”And the angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord’ ” (Lk2:10-11). And in John 3:17, are we not told, “for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life"(Jn 3:16)? God shared his son with us as a precious gift to us. God’s intention in sharing His Son with us is for our salvation and for our happiness, joy, and peace both in this world and life to come. Thus, God’s gift can never be for our destruction.
As recipients what do we do with this wonderful gift? Is it still unpacked? Is it stacked away? Is it left in the attic? Is it already discarded and thrown away? Has it become a forgotten gift? In the midst of the many gifts that we receive have we forgotten the priceless gift? At Christmas we recall the historical gift with gratitude to God and ask ourselves as to what have we done with this precious gift?
In receiving Christ as the gift and making it our own we eventually become the gift that Christ is: another Christ. We become an extension of the gift - the person of Christ himself. Isn’t it what
St. Paul drives home when he says, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). Haven’t we celebrated many Christmases? Have these celebrations brought about a transformation in me that I become the gift of Christmas itself? It is never too late to start.
A few practical suggestions:
If I have to give a spiritual Christmas gift to my spouse and children what would that be?
If my spouse or children want a particular spiritual gift from me for this Christmas, what would that be? Besides the material gifts how meaningful and helpful it would be to give a spiritual gift to each other? For example, it may be the gift of prayer, the gift of being spiritual, the gift of being non-judgmental, the gift of not-being negatively critical, the gift of peace, the gift of being non-violent, the gift of sharing, the gift of not gossiping, the gift of listening more and talking less, the gift of not wasting unnecessary time on social media, the gift of a simple life…
Such a gift will enrich the entire household. Christmas is indeed a time of gift giving. The best gift is becoming Christ like and asking the other the gift of being Christ like.
Have a wonderful Christmas!