Thursday, December 18, 2008


Favorite stories tell how "gift anxiety" is resolved -- relax, it's going to be okay

GIFT ANXIETY. What shall I give? Will it be enough? Will it be right? Will it be what my loved ones want? Will they be pleased? Such thoughts go through my mind as I think about gift-giving. I scroll through online items and walk the aisles of stores with questions circling. Do you do this? We're not alone. Some of my favorite Christmas stories and songs revolve around gift anxiety--and its resolution. You know these stories, but I recall them here and set them in context of this question: what is an adequate gift?

THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY. The most popular of the songs I have in mind is "The Little Drummer Boy." It sings first person of a little boy who has nothing he thinks is fit to bring to the baby who is born to be the King. "I have no gift to bring," he sighs. He decides to offer the only thing he has or can do--to play his drum the very best he can for Jesus. In the song, the baby Jesus smiles at him as he plays.

THE LITTLEST ANGEL. "The Littlest Angel" story is about a troublesome little angel who, learning that God's Son is to be born in a manger, manages to hide away such common things as butterfly wings and snail shells in a box for the Christ Child--things that he loved as a little boy on earth. His items, however, grossly pale in comparison to the other angels' gifts. He feels humiliated and wants to hide. But, to his surprise, his became the greatest gift of all (the star the led the Magi, in fact), for his choices were the things the little boy Jesus related to and loved.

THE GIFT OF THE OF MAGI. "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry is the touching story of a young couple with very limited resources trying to offer each other a significant gift at Christmas. Unbeknown to each other, she sells her beautiful long hair to she can purchase a golden chain for her lover's watch; he sells his cherished watch to by a golden comb for her beautiful hair.

IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER. The carol "In the Bleak Midwinter" concludes with a verse that compellingly underscores the only adequate gift we really bring to Christ is the gift of our heart:

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb
If I were a wise man
I would do my part
Yet what I can I give Him -
Give my heart.

THE GIFT WE RECEIVE. Christmas is really not about what you can give to Jesus or to others. It is about what God, in Christ, has given to us. All our gift giving is a simply response to this Gift. Whatever it is you choose to give others, let it be joyfully and from the heart.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility. Shalom!

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Your tasteful comments and/or questions are welcome. Posts are moderated only to reduce a few instances of incivility.