Gift-Getting: more Christian than you think


It was Jesus himself who said: “It’s more blessed to give than to receive”.  At this time of year, we try (mostly unsuccessfully) to remember this; and especially to impress it on our children!

Then Christmas morning comes, young eyes are ablaze with excitement, brightly coloured paper is ripped open, and everyone in the room delights in the pure, unabashed joy of children receiving presents! My son in particular is most enjoyable to watch.  A young man of passion and enthusiasm, his grandparents LOVE watching him open presents – because of his extremely exuberant response!

It struck me the other day that a child’s delight in, and focus on, receiving presents was actually something we adults might need to emulate. It’s easy, especially for people wanting to be Christian, to have the idea that we are meant to be always pouring ourselves out for others: serving, helping, sacrificing and, in general, being good.  Of course, the main reason we have this kind of idea is because it is Jesus’ calling for people who want to follow in his footsteps.

However, there is a much less-understood idea that puts all of the giving in its proper place. Even in Jesus’ time, this idea was hard for people to grasp, especially for those who were known for their goodness and sacrifice. In one of the first recorded talks by Jesus, he says: ‘Blessed are the paupers in spirit, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs’! One writer says the word means ‘reduced to being a beggar’. Rather than being someone who has it all together, always able to do the right thing, and give to everyone around them; the main posture of a Christian is to reach out your empty hands, aware of your need, aware that you don’t have what it takes in yourself. Another time, Jesus explains the idea by saying that we can only be His if we come like a little child: dependent, trusting, empty-handed until someone gives what we need. Only after receiving from him, do we have something to give.

So, maybe this Christmas, we might all learn a thing or two about spiritual life by watching the sheer longing, and joyful receiving, of the little people around us. It might help us learn to open our hearts and our hands to the great Giver, who didn’t hold back, but came in person – generously, joyfully, and whole-heartedly.