Holidays Old People webMany gift-giving holidays surface this time of year: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Three Kings Day, Eid-al-Adha, and Diwali, to name a few. It’s a time of love, obligations, and equality. It’s a time of love expressed by sharing gifts given for the sheer pleasure of seeing the sheer pleasure in the recipient. It’s a time of obligation when you feel you have to give Uncle Gaspar a present because, after all, it is Christmas, and he’s related in some mysterious way that even Henry Louis Gates, Jr., can’t trace. It’s a time of equality when you hope Cousin Itt gives you a gift card equal in value to the one you got him.

There’s an old saying, “It’s the thought that counts.” As we look at what we call, “the true meaning of Christmas,” we see that in the spiritual realm, it really is the gift that counts. The value and meaning of the gifts of God transcend any material gifts we can give or receive, and present a model for giving that can revolutionize our holiday traditions and reflect the love of God. The most well-known verse in the Bible is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This is the ultimate act of love giving the ultimate gift for the ultimate purpose: to grant eternal life. There is no material value but infinite spiritual value — God gave the gift of Himself.

Memories are rarely made through material possessions. Once the batteries die, the next upgrade renders it obsolete, the wheels fall off, and the fruitcake dries, what’s left? But the knowledge that you have helped a needy person who cannot give back (OK, hugs, handshakes, and happy grins do count!), has great worth. Sharing opportunities of service with children opens their eyes to a real world beyond screens and teaches them valuable, lasting life lessons.

The gifts God gives are gifts for an abundant life: eternal life (John 3:16), the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), justification (Romans 5:16), spiritual gifts of service (1 Corinthians 12), and grace (Ephesians 4:7). Furthermore, the gifts God gives cannot be returned (Who would want to?): “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). Gifts of memorable events and time together can be recalled, but in a good sense — we can recall memories over and over again and keep them stored in our hearts. God is not obligated to give us anything; that’s what makes His gifts so wonderful. He gives out of the boundless goodness of His heart. “Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant!” (Psalm 35:27). The Psalmist takes comfort and says, “As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me” (Psalm 40:17). If God can stoop to take thought for the destitute, how much more should we unselfishly share with our fellow creatures who can return nothing?

God sees us all as equals, and equal we are. He does not give the same gifts to everyone, but He treats everyone the same. Listen to what the Christ of Christmas says, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44–45). Equality is not in the value of the gift, but the value of the person. Don’t forget the most precious gift that you can give Jesus Christ for his birthday. That is the gift of yourself (Romans 12:1)!

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