The gift of giving

| 24 Dec 2013 | 12:15

    Jon loves the giving part of Christmas.

    Of course, he likes the receiving part too. But ever since he was little, the youngest of our five children has taken special joy in the gifts he gives, especially to his brother and sisters.

    When he was about 6, he earned the right to participate in a special school carnival, where he could buy some really cool stuff (read “cheap toys and trinkets”) with points he had accumulated through his good classroom behavior. He was ecstatic when he found a chain necklace from which dangled a three-inch tall green and purple plastic alien, which he was sure would be the perfect — and very stylish — Christmas present for his 19-year-old sister, AmyJo.

    Unfortunately for AmyJo, the carnival was about a week before Christmas, so she was subjected to a seven-day barrage of questions from her extremely anxious little brother. And it was always the same two questions.

    “Do you like necklaces?” she was asked every three hours or so.

    Which was always followed by: “Do you like … aliens?”

    To her everlasting credit, Amy somehow managed to act surprised when she opened her present from Jon that Christmas morning, and she wore the necklace the entire day. In fact, I think she still has it tucked away somewhere — a one-of-kind treasure if ever there was one.

    “Do you like aliens?” has become legendary in Walker family lore. In fact, we have it written on a wall of family sayings in our living room, enshrined forever (or at least until the paint wears off) as one of those memorable phrases from our history that mean something to us and bind us together as a family.

    But to tell the truth, things haven’t really changed all that much during the past 16 years. When Jon was trying to figure out what to get AmyJo and her family for Christmas this year, his mother mentioned they had recently broken their crock pot, and that a new one would be an excellent gift. So no one was surprised — least of all Amy — when Jon walked up to her the other day and out of the clear blue sky said to her: “So, Amy, I hear you broke your crock pot.”

    Amy looked up at her little brother and said, without missing a beat, “Yes, Jon, I like crock pots — almost as much as I like aliens!”

    Jon may be a little awkward in his approach to Christmas gift giving, but his heart is in the right place. Even when he was little he understood that Christmas isn’t about receiving — it’s about giving. And the joy of Christmas doesn’t come as a result of what you have in your wallet, purse or piggy bank — it comes as a result of what you have in your heart. The Christmas Spirit was first kindled hundreds of years ago in a lowly stable as a divine gift of love. We keep that Spirit burning bright in the world today as we emulate the godly pattern of loving.

    And giving.
    Of course, this doesn’t just apply to gifts that are wrapped in paper and placed under a tree. Gifts of time, attention, talent and love are equally important — perhaps even more so — to cultivating the Spirit of the Season. A blind neighbor might appreciate having someone address her Christmas cards. A lonely man down the street might enjoy some company for an hour. The new family on the block might like to get acquainted with new neighbors. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the Christmas Spirit comes when you’re thinking of others more than yourself.

    And a magical thing happens as you focus on the giving part of Christmas. An extraordinary feeling blossoms deep in your heart and grows until it envelopes your soul with love, grace and a uniquely Christmassy sensation that lyricist Joseph Mohr called “heavenly peace.” This personal sensory Christmas miracle is the gift you give yourself: the gift of giving – which, it turns out, has little to do with the gifts you give, but everything to do with the giving.