Is it really better to give than receive?

I am at the “Making Things Even” stage of Christmas. It is a family tradition.

When I was a kid, my mother sent me to retrieve something from her wallet and I discovered a scrap of paper with a handwritten list of Christmas gifts and what they cost. She was making a list and checking it twice, making sure there’d be no strife.

Was such attention to equitable distribution necessary? Probably not in our minds, but it was in hers.

Now, here I sit before an open computer file analyzing spending. If only my mother had known about Excel. The tallies between families are within equitable margins. My long-range goal is balanced giving and a proportionate spread of good cheer. When did Christmas become the language of brokers and investors?

A lot of tweaking is happening. As a result, Amazon has worn a path to our front door, FedEx sends texts about deliveries and Kohl’s dings my cell letting me know a pickup order is waiting.

Yet there are still gaps and I rack my brain. What to give? What to give?

It has been said we give gifts we’d like to receive. Better judgment tells me infused olive oil and vinegars will not excite our son or our sons-in-law. Why can’t I channel my inner outdoorsman, distance runner or power tool expert?

What to give? What to give?

The interests of the grands span a wide arc from dolls and art to robotics, books, Nerf Blasters and fossils. There is no one-size-fits all. So the hard work of thinking what to give continues.

Then it comes to me. Scotch Tape!

I said we try to be equitable; I didn’t say we were lavish. They love tape. They’re always asking for tape. I don’t even ask why any longer, I just peel it off the windows and doors and kitchen table and chairs after they leave.

People keep asking, “Are you ready for the holidays?” In large part, they are asking if all the shopping is finished. Giving adds wonder and excitement to the season, but no matter how hard we rack our brains for that something special for that special someone, the most eye-popping, jaw-dropping gift has already been given — the babe in a manger.

Talk about lavish. Who among us would give up a child for the good of others?

It was the most astounding gift with a most humble delivery. There was no panel truck arriving, no cell phone alert, just a young peasant girl, far from home, in a strange place, on a bed of straw. The anguish of labor, the exhaustion of delivery, the first cry of new life and that new babe now breathing on his own.

Surely there were a few moments of stillness, a span of sacred quiet in which they absorbed the mystery and the miracle. Then it began. The celestial explosion, stars blazing, angels proclaiming, shepherds arriving.

Whoever said it is better to give than to receive surely wasn’t talking about Christmas. The driving question during this season isn’t truly, “What do we give?” but “What do we receive?”

Merry Christmas.


And now a few small gifts for you, my readers. You are so kind and encouraging. Your comments and emails are always appreciated. They are gifts to me. So here are a couple of gifts for you.

If you haven’t seen this sweet video . . . well, grab a tissue.

Finally, a favorite quote from Lloyd John Ogilvie that grows  more relevant each passing day . . .

“Christmas is a festival of hope. And there is nothing our world needs more desperately than authentic hope. We have placed our hope in all the wrong things. The false gods of human progress, inventive genius, the future, armed power, financial security, governmental effectiveness, movements, great leaders, political parties, negotiation –all have fallen from their thrones. True hope is inadvertent. It does not come from searching for hope. It grows out of two basic convictions: that God is in charge and that He intervenes. This is why a true experience of Christmas gives us lasting hope.”

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