It’s the season for gift giving and I’m sorry that it’s often more of a chore than an act of love. Lately it’s become an act of war, with people using pepper spray and trampling their fellow shoppers. What could Wal-Mart have that’s so precious?
Here are some of my thoughts on gifts and their complications.
In the Nativity story the Wise Men bring gifts to Baby Jesus and then it says “but Mary took these things and kept them in her heart.” I always thought Mary was stealing Jesus’s birthday presents. It took me a long time to get over my suspicions about her and understand that there are gifts that don’t get wrapped in paper.
When I was eight I stayed with my grandparents for a long visit. They gave me some chores to do and I saved up the money I earned. It was the first time I was allowed to walk around town by myself so I went shopping and bought a present for my grandmother– a teacup with lilies of the valley. That was her favorite flower, because Jesus was called the lily of the valley. She opened it and shed a few happy tears and then my grandfather said “That’s a present for me, too.”
Uh oh. Should I have gotten something for him, too? Does he feel left out? Is he mad? Am I in trouble?
It took me years to understand that seeing me make her happy brought him Joy. When you give a gift you don’t know how many people you’re actually giving it to.
You know what they say about passing things on? How you never know how something you don’t use anymore can be someone else’s treasure? This leads me to my mother’s mink stole.
My father brought it home from work one day–he couldn’t wait for Christmas. She was thrilled. She danced around the living room and gave Dad a very nice kiss. She wore it for years and then stoles went out of style. It stayed in the back of the closet until she wore it to a Hallowe’en party where a friend, Mrs. B, looked at the stole with longing and said, “Oh, I’ve always wanted a mink stole.” And Mom said, “Here, it’s yours.”
The next day Mom ran into Mr. B. “That mink stole!” he said. “She came into the bedroom in the stole, her high heels and nothing else! Ginny, thank you for a wonderful night!”
Then there’s the way we receive our gifts. My mother and my grandmother and grandfather knew how to accept a gift with joy, but I had another lesson in the way to appreciate a gift from a little baby. That’s appropriate to the season, don’t you think?
We were visiting my friend Valerie to meet her son Ted for the first time. Ted was about a year old, so we bought him a little wooden car. We didn’t have time for wrapping so we made a big wad of the paper bag and gave it to Ted. He was delighted with the gift of a big wad of paper and played with it until he discovered the little car and that was even more delightful!
May we always be just as delighted with every gift we receive! As I said in my title, I wish you all the gifts of this happy season, and I wish you joy in both giving and receiving.