The greatest gift can’t be wrapped


By Betty Slade

“Does anyone need anything? No. Does anyone want anything? No.” And with that, I’ve decided not to buy any gifts this year for Christmas.

It was as if the needle of a record player skipped across the vinyl. “You always say that.” Our daughter, annoyed at my lack of gift giving, said, “Well, I’m buying gifts for everyone.”

I love to give, and with great appreciation receive everything given to me. But, it is as I sit here and write that I stand on a simple principle. Buying just to buy misses the reason of this holy season. Besides, every square inch of this house is already full. 

I enjoy family and friends, bright lights on the tree and excited young hearts waiting for Christmas morning. But, I can’t seem to find the right balance when Jesus is swept into the corner amid the festivities of the day. It even seems as if when we receive a gift, we must be ready with gift in hand to return the sentiment. 

Aren’t you as a gift to me sufficient? Who you are to me and who I can be for you shouldn’t be a matter for a cash register to decide. Sounds like a Scrooge of an idea, doesn’t it? On the contrary. What if we all just met a need for each other that didn’t require a physical exchange? 

The cost is priceless, although it may come at a sacrifice. It may require us to disrupt a moment of comfort in exchange for a labor of love received. Holding an elderly person’s hand for an afternoon. Babysitting unruly children for a friend so that they can have a moment of peace. Maybe it’s in just listening to a story from someone who needs to be heard. 

A reader emailed me recently saying that she felt she knew me. She reads my column each week and wanted to express how much my articles meant to her. Little does she know my son edits my writing. 

His help is definitely a gift. He holds my feet to the fire and has kept me from singeing my eyebrows many times. Left to my own devices, my words would have undoubtedly burnt down many a house. 

Yes, there are moments we lock horns as I try to produce an intended message. When a stroke of genius hits and my passion and words start to flow, he has only one thing to say: “This is verbal abuse.”

In the spirit of transparency, his feedback is not always well received, but welcomed. I’ve learned that taking an extended hand is better than stewing over my own efforts. 

Writing is important to me. If he can help me produce a thought that is more meaningful than what I could on my own, he isn’t just giving me a gift, but one I get to share as I pass it forward. 

Isn’t that the true meaning of Christmas? Being a light to a world that extends beyond ourselves?

As I look around, it almost feels like people are competing for gift supremacy. You know, if you give me a nugget, I need to give you a mountain. Long gone the days when a simple smile or extended hand had greater value than the few dollars in my purse. Yet, we are almost conditioned to think otherwise. 

Have you looked at the latest ads on the television? I’m sure someone is sitting in an office somewhere dreaming up every idea of how he or she can get you and I to spend more, for more. And, why? Because we are obligated, of course. 

Christmas is no longer a time to remember the gift given to us in the form of the One who came to save us, but a span of time by where if we don’t get it or give it, we lose the battle of Yule. The message of “joy to the world” has been replaced with get it, give it or miss it. Sad, really, but something that only we as individuals can turn around. 

Final brushstroke: I eagerly wait to see what is hung in my stocking with care. Admittedly, I may even dream of sugar plum fairies that dance in the air. But let us not forget that there is nothing that we can give or receive that has greater meaning and impact than a selfless gift. It is, after all what was modeled for us in a lowly manger over 2,000 years ago. What comes to us as a blessing has greater impact than any box could hold. 

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