This was a great article and something that helps us put the true meaning back into our Gift Giving and heart this Christmas season! Hope you can take a break from all our creating and wrapping and read this tonight!
Have you ever felt that Christmas has become too commercialized, that you are focusing too much on gifts, that you need to add some Christmas traditions into your home to bring the focus back to Christ? I have seen many cute ideas for Christmas traditions to help our families remember the Reason for the Season such as having a little manger to which each person adds a piece of straw every time he does an act of service or wrapping a gift under the tree for Jesus and filling it with promises of good deeds. All of these traditions are good things that remind us to do service and remind us of why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. But….
Sometimes I think we forget why we give gifts at Christmas time. We forget that in thinking about our loved ones and trying to discern what gifts would make them happy and in sacrificing to give those gifts, we are doing an act of service, we are giving a gift to Jesus. So today I would like to talk a little bit about how this whole gift-giving tradition got started and how we can use it to worship our Savior and show Him our devotion.
The First Gift of Christmas
What was the very first Christmas gift ever given? Jesus Christ, Himself.
God, the Father, our own Heavenly Father, who loves us more than any earthly father could possibly love his children, and who is perfect and thus knows how to give the best gifts, gave us the gift of His Only Begotten Son.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Our Heavenly Father was the one who began the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas-time! He gave us the Perfect Gift. He gave us exactly what we needed. And He showed us how to give gifts, He set the example. When we give gifts for Christmas, we follow in His footsteps.
More Gifts on the First Christmas
Soon after Jesus came down to earth, the wise men came, also bearing gifts. We don’t really know how many wise men, magi, or kings came to visit the baby Jesus, but we know of three gifts that they gave: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In giving these gifts, the wise men acknowledged that they understood the greatness of the tiny baby before them, what His mission on earth would be, and what gift He would ultimately give to us.
Gold: Gold, being precious and costly, was a gift frequently given to honor kings. The baby Jesus was descended in a direct line from King David, and thus was heir to the throne of Israel. But more than that, He is destined, at the end of time to rule all nations forever. The book of Revelations describes Him as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords,” and thus He is. The wise men’s gift showed that they knew it.
Frankincense: This was an incense that was burned in the temple by the priests. The smoke from it, drifting up toward heaven, symbolized the prayers of the people ascending to God. Those from the tribe of Levi, who served as priests to the House of Israel, were responsible for making intercession for the people with God by offering up the people’s prayers and sacrifices. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the high priest would offer sacrifice and then enter the Holy of Holies in the temple to place the blood on the Ark of the Covenant.
Like the Levitical priests, Jesus Christ acts as our mediator with the Father to make intercession for our sins. Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, called Christ the “Great High Priest.” Jesus would offer Himself as a great and final sacrifice, shedding His blood to atone for our sins. The wise men pointed to both these priestly roles with their gift of Frankincense.
Myrrh: Myrrh was made into a perfume or oil and was frequently used to anoint the bodies of the dead. In giving this gift to the babe, the wise men were showing what would happen in the future. They honored Jesus’ death and showed that they revered Him for His future sacrifice. Myrrh also had medicinal purposes, so it could also signify Jesus as our Comforter.
These kings from afar, the wise men, continued the tradition of gift giving begun by God the Father. When we give gifts at Christmas, we also follow their example in giving to the Christ child.
Gifts Jesus Gives to Us
from lds.org media library
Although in our culture we traditionally give gifts to the person whose birthday we celebrate, I think gift giving at Christmas also reminds us of the gifts that Christ has given to us.
First and foremost, Christ gave Himself for us. He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane and died on the cross in order to give us the gifts of Eternal Life and Resurrection. In a fabulous talk on gift-giving, Henry B. Erying said:
God, the Father, gave his Son, and Jesus Christ gave us the Atonement, the greatest of all gifts and all giving. They somehow felt all the pain and sorrow of sin that would fall on all of us and everyone else who would ever live…
I bear you my testimony that Jesus gave the gift freely, willingly, to us all. He said, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself” (John 10:17–18). All men and women come into this life with that gift. They will live again, and if they will, they may live with him.
And I bear you testimony that as you accept that gift, given through infinite sacrifice, it brings joy to the giver. Henry B Eyring, BYU Devotional, Dec 9, 1980
So, one way we can celebrate Christmas is to freely accept the gift that Christ has given to us, to be a good receiver by striving to daily repent and choose the right.
It is also good to note that with His sacrifice, Christ gives us the same gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh that He received at His birth:
Gold: By His Atonement, He has given us the chance to have Eternal Life, to one day be kings and queens.
Frankincense: He mediates for us and brings our prayers to the Father.
Myrrh: His death and subsequent resurrection give us the gift of resurrection also. Furthermore, He is the Second Comforter; He binds up our wounds and heals the troubled heart. With His stripes, we are healed.
With these three gifts, Christ gives us Hope, Peace, and Grace for Christmas. Can we also find ways to impart similar gifts to our fellow men and women?
Our Own Gift Giving
The Savior taught: “Freely ye have received, freely give.” ( Matthew 10:8 )
With the magnificent gifts that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, have given us for Christmas, won’t we want to turn around and try to give amazing gifts to those we love? In fact, the only way we really can give back to God and His Son for what they have given us is to give to those with whom we come in contact. Jesus taught us that this is the way to inherit Eternal Life:
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:34 – 40)
Nancy Ann says, “Our relationship to God is mirrored in our relationship with our neighbor, and our family is made up of our closest neighbors. The state of our marriage, our relationship to our kids, and our relationship to our friends and coworkers all reveal the condition of our relationship to God. If we are serious about loving God, we must be serious about loving our neighbors. This means we act horizontally how God has acted toward us. He has given extravagantly to us, over and over again.”
When we give gifts to our children, spouses, extended family, friends, and neighbors, we please God by following His example in gift giving. When we bring joy to others, we bring joy to God. He has given us stewardship over our families and expects us to take care of them and try to make them happy, just as He does for us.
How to Give Good Gifts
The only problem is that sometimes it is hard to know if what you are giving is a good gift. Will giving extravagantly spoil our children or will it help them and make them happy? Certainly, we must seek the Lord’s help to know not only what to give but how much to give and when to give it.
What makes a gift a good gift? Again, Henry B. Eyring has given us some great advice:
I’ve always daydreamed of being a great gift giver. I picture people opening my gifts and showing with tears of joy and a smile that the giving, not just the gift, has touched their hearts. You must have that daydream, too. Many of you are probably already experts in gift giving. But even the experts may share some of my curiosity about what makes a gift great. I’ve been surrounded by expert gift givers all my life. None of them has ever told me how to do it, but I’ve been watching and I’ve been building a theory… Here it is: The Eyring Theory of Gift Giving and Receiving… When you’re on the receiving end, you will discover three things in great gift givers: (1) they felt what you felt and were touched, (2) they gave freely, and (3) they counted sacrifice a bargain…
Most people feel deprived as they sacrifice to give another person a gift, and then they let that person know it. But only expert givers let the receiver sense that their sacrifice brings them joy. Henry B Eyring, BYU Devotional, Dec 9, 1980
In order to give good gifts, we must think deeply about that other person. We must spend time getting to know the recipient of our gift so that we will know to please him or her. Perhaps we need to pray about how best to serve the recipient with our gift, to seek the Lord’s advice on what would be a good gift. We should not give grudgingly.
Our gift should be a sacrifice – whether of time or money or emotion or deep thought or all of the above – but we should not begrudge making that sacrifice. In fact, we should love the other person so much that we prefer them to have the gift rather than us. Our sacrifice should bring us joy because we want that other person to be happy. That is the kind of gift that serves God and works towards repaying Him.
Hope you are having a wonderful Christmas season dear friends!