Sunday, December 20, 2009

THE ADEQUATE GIFT

These four pieces help me get over gift anxiety

GIFT ANXIETY  What shall I give?  Will it be enough?  Will it be right?  Will it be what my loved ones desire?  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—innocently, naively, hopefully—to offer the only thing he has or can do: he will 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" is a familiar childhood story about a troublesome little angel who, learning that God's Son is to be born on earth, manages to hide away such common things as a butterfly, a bird’s egg, stones, his favorite dog’s collar in a rough-hewn box--things that he loved as a little boy on earth—to offer the Christ child.  His items, however, pale grossly in comparison to the other angels' magnificent, shining gifts.  He feels humiliated and runs to hide.  But, to his surprise, his gift became the greatest of all, for his choices were 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 valuable watch. He, in turn, pawns his cherished time piece to buy a golden comb for her beautiful hair.

IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER  Christina Rossetti’s 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 a grace-gifted heart.

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