Gifts. What's the purpose? We spend profuse amounts of time and money buying things, making sure we get the right ones and cover everyone who needs to be given something. If this stood alone and had no significance behind it, it would be wasted time and energy indeed. But, it isn't. It is a symbolic gesture. A gesture of love that reflects the adoration of the Magi for the new Baby King and a reminder to us of the best gift we will ever receive. The gift that extends to eternity and never fades, from the God who is love and gave us His most precious thing, though we aren't worthy. It reminds me of a story by O. Henry about a young couple who both sold their most precious possessions to buy a gift for each other, but was done with joy and out of great love:
The Magi, as you know, were wise men- wonderfully wise men- who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts, these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.
To differ with Mr. Henry, the inventor of the Christmas gift was the Lord God, Himself. If we think of this when giving presents to those we care about, then maybe we will:
...on Christmas day.... remember Who made lame beggars walk and blind men see. (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)
If giving a gift doesn't mean this to us, then maybe we should re-think the tradition. Or, better yet, change our attitudes about giving....
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store."
"Maybe Christmas... perhaps.... means a little bit more!"
Jesus. Jesus is the reason we give gifts. God's pure love is the reason we sing carols and bake cookies to give to friends. Our total depravity, transcended by God's unfathomable and indelible mercy is why we celebrate this season. The shadow of the cross and the joy of the tomb should cast itself on the manger and in our hearts.
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Prince of Peace.
~ Isaiah 9:6