Well, another blessed Christmas has come and gone and I truly hope yours was filled with joy and the love of family and friends…ours certainly was. That is, by far, my favorite part of Christmas….being able to spend time with my greatest blessings….my family. And this year, again, we were able to do that. It was wonderful. Thank you, Lord!!!!
But one of the things that crossed my mind, maybe more this year than in years past (not sure why), is the question…”Why do kids of all ages (from 2 to 92) love receiving gifts so much?” I mean, honestly, who does not enjoy receiving gifts…especially when they come from someone who loves you very much? Whether it is your birthday, an anniversary, maybe you are retiring, getting married, having a baby…or last but not least, at Christmas time…gifts rock!! C’mon, admit it, we all love getting gifts. And yes, most of us enjoy giving great gifts to those we love, as well, hence the phrase…”It is better to give than to receive.”
But that makes my point even greater. Why do love to give great gifts, too? I say it’s because we love seeing how happy it makes the people we care about, when we nail it and give them something they really want and will greatly enjoy. It is all part of it…giving and receiving gifts…it truly is an expression of love. In fact, there are some people who have a hard time expressing love other ways…so they try to make up for it by giving really great gifts and that is fine too. Some of us are better at showing love than others…so if telling someone you love them by buying and giving them a nice gift is what works best for you…I’d say it is better than not showing love at all. Go for it!!!
For the sake of this post, however, I want to look at WHY we all seem to enjoy getting gifts so much. What is it, deep inside of us, that whether we are old or young, male or female, rich or poor, whether you live in China, Ireland, Australia, Uganda…or right here in the good ol’ US of A…getting a great gift from someone we love (or sometimes even from someone we don’t know) truly warms our hearts and brings a smile to our faces…both for the giver and the receiver. I mean it certainly is not something we have to be taught..or learn. It really comes quite naturally. So, there must be a reason, right?
To start with, I want to look at what may be the most obvious reason we all love getting great gifts and I would say that it is because we all recognize that when someone gives us a gift, it means they care about us, think about us often and they want us to know we are special to them. That is also why when someone gives us a gift, and we are not convinced that they love us (and we think they are just going through the motions…or trying to buy our love), their gift does not carry the same weight. Even if it is a really expensive gift, if there is no love behind it, it just will not fill us with joy or warm our hearts like a gift given out of love will.
Speaking of the price of a gift, I would like to tell you a story about what I consider one of the best Christmas presents I ever received. It was from my daughter…and I do not believe it cost her much of anything to give it (except time, talent and effort) and I could not care less. You see, ever since our kids were small, they knew my favorite Christmas song is “Merry Christmas, Darling” by the Carpenters. It is a lovely song, with a beautiful arrangement…and with Karen Carpernter’s velvety voice as the frosting on the cake…c’mon now…what says “Christmas” better than that? Nothing..in my book.
I would always tell my kids, “For me, it is not Christmas until I hear ‘Merry Christmas, Darling’ on the radio or somewhere.” It would not count if I played the record myself. No, I had to hear it elsewhere. So for years, we had this standing ritual….my kids would ask me, “Hey, Dad, is it Christmas yet?” If I had not heard the song yet, my answer would be “Nope, not yet?” But if I did hear the song on the radio or wherever, I would call them and say…”Guess what…it is officially Christmas time!!!”
So a few years back, as we were exchanging gifts, my daughter (who is a very talented musician and singer) hands me this gift…and just by the size and packaging I thought, “Oh, cool, she bought me a CD.” When I unwrapped it, I discovered it was not a store bought CD, but rather a CD of a song she recorded herself…”Merry Christmas, Darling.” As the story goes…at the time she was dating a young man who owned and operated a recording studio. And she got him to help her do this up right (Thanks, Dave) while she played all the instruments and sang all the vocal parts herself (yes, she even did all those lush Carpenters harmonies all by herself, overdubbing each part separately). Yes, I am being a proud father, here, but she did a wonderful job (and I am not easily pleased when someone tries to do their own take on the Carpenters…just sayin’). If you would like to hear her rendition for yourself…you can go YouTube and just search for “Merry Christmas Darling” by Bobbi Jean. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. I know I was!!!
There you have it, a story about a very special Christmas gift given to me by someone who cares about me and wanted to do something special, something that would really touch my heart. And, it was something that did not cost her a lot of money. It was a very personal and thoughtful gift, given out of love, and one I will surely never forget.
So far, we have established that we all enjoy getting good gifts because…1) they show us that the giver cares about…and 2) that the giver wants us to be happy and to know how much they love us. All of that is great, but I am wondering if there is something more. There must be some reason that we all pretty much react to gifts the same way, no matter who we are or what our background is. What I mean is, is it something inherent, something we are born with…or dare I say…something God-given?
Well, let’s see…the Bible actually talks quite a bit about gifts….both the giving of and receiving. We know the original Christmas story, recorded in the Bible, included the giving of gifts:
When they saw the star, they were overwhelmed with joy. Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. [Matthew 2:10-11 CSB]
Ok, I realize those gifts were not hover boards, cell phones or video game systems…but in those days…the gifts the wisemen brought Him were very special, indeed.
Later on Jesus, Himself, talked about a very special gift with His disciples:
“And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.” [Luke 24:49 CSB]
And Luke even when on to reemphasize the importance of this promise of a gift from on high in his writings about what happened after Jesus died and was resurrected in the Acts of the Apostles:
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” [Acts 1:4-5 NIV]
So, I think we can safely say that the concept of “giving gifts to those we love” is not purely a human thing, something we conceived all by ourselves. Rather, it is something that God not only apparently loved to do Himself, but He wanted it to be an important part of our human experiences, as well.
In my first book, “Unlocking Creation,” I talked a great deal about how I believe God revealed many aspects of His own divine nature through the things He created. Obviously, mankind is a big part of that as we were told that God intently chose to make man in His image and, as I talked about last week, I do not believe that meant in physical appearance only. I believe much of what we do, as people, are reflections of His divine nature, too. He breathes, we breathe. He sees, we see. He hears, we hear. He smiles, we smile and it even says He grieves, so it is not surprising that, at times, we grieve. These are all attributes of God’s nature and He has apparently chosen to make them all parts of who we are, as people, as well. So I would not think it is “a bridge too far” for us to conclude that just as God loves to give gifts to those He loves, that He intended for us to be generous “gift givers” and thankful “gift receivers,” as well.
And let me not forget what the Apostle Paul shared regarding what is probably the greatest gift mankind has ever received, a gift with eternal significance and one that has been made available to everyone who has ever lived (if only they would choose to receive it). Think about that for a moment…God the Father chose to offer His own Son, who would die for our sins on a cross, as a gift motivated by His love for us…His children. Talk about sacrificial love. Here is how Paul explained it:
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 6:23 NASB]
In closing, I would like to include one more portion of Scripture, this one from our Lord Jesus and His famous Sermon on the Mount. If there remains any doubt that God chose to impart to us the desire to bless those we love with good things…this should clinch it:
“If you then, who are evil (sinners) know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him.” [Matthew 7:11 CSB]
Yes, I believe God is the ultimate “gift giver” and we were designed to be like Him in many ways. Just as we have been created to pass on many of our own personality traits to our children, He chose to impart many of His to us, as well. Thank you, Lord!!!
Besides, who among us would be able to give anyone a gift, in the first place, had God not enabled us and blessed us with the wherewithal to do so.
So let’s see…God chose to give us gifts out of His love for us..that we might have the ability to give gifts to others out of our love for them.
I think I am beginning to see it all a little clearer now.
He gives to us…so we may be givers, too.
MAY YOU ALL HAVE A SAFE…BLESSED AND JOYOUS 2018!!!
(author of “Unlocking Creation” and “The Red Letter Parables”)