I’ve heard many say over the years that “Christmas is just too commercial; that’s not what it’s about!” I’ve never thought that made sense especially if we think carefully about all the details that surround Jesus entering this world.
As the word spread of this Divine Child’s birth, wise men came from far away bearing gifts. Yes, gifts. They came with open hearts, a great deal of respect and extraordinary love as they presented gifts to the Baby Jesus.
I think that’s what we do at Christmastime, too. Besides honoring the birth of Christ, in our own way, we also bestow gifts on those we believe to be very special in our lives: close family, dear friends or other valued relationships: neighbors who watch over us, co-workers who cover our flank and service providers who go out of their way to make us happy. I can’t see anything wrong with acknowledging our love and gratitude to people we believe to be special in our immediate lives.
So, the question remains does gifting take away from the true meaning of this holiday or enhance it? I believe it enhances it and I believe Jesus would be beaming that His birth also brought forth such a loving tradition.
Now, it could be that it's the commercial overtones that offend some - since merchants advertise much more frequently this time of year - but the reason they do so is perfectly logical. People have to know what they offer. And, of course, merchants feature price in their ads and even sales to entice buyers; that doesn’t make the owners of these businesses soulless hawkers. Their method of advertising is merely a style issue, not a heart issue. The real judgment lies with intention and I’d bet most of these business owners have the right intent. They value their employees, try desperately to keep them employed, spread their wealth into their community and with family and friends and are generally loving and happy people. You see, it’s always the intention on which we’re judged in the afterlife. Two people, for example, can do the very same thing and where one acts with love the other's intent may be to hurt other human being. It's always the intention that counts.
So, ask yourself this Christmas, what is your intention? Are you buying a gift to complete with someone else, buying gifts to keep family and friends close with a little guilt, or some other insincere reason? I’ll bet, instead, you’re finding the perfect gift for someone you care about because you delight in seeing them open it – in surprise and perhaps, amazement!
Gift giving should be an act of love, not duty. People feel the difference and recognize when there is some thought behind the gift, even if the gift is very small. Doing anything with love, always enhances the act. So, take a little extra time this year to deliver the perfect gift just like the wise men did with their long journey. Your loved ones will notice the difference.
I love Christmas, in fact I love every moment of Christmas. Each bit of stress, each painstaking minute of wrapping and all the food I prepare around the Christmas Day experience is all magical to me. My heart is continually open and I know my grandchildren – as well as a few other people in my life - who I remember with gifts, know each present has an enormous amount of love behind it. Even the cards I send express my heart on each particular season.
I’m sure when the wise men arrived in Bethlehem to visit Baby Jesus, they were brimming with anticipation, hearts overflowing with love and humbled into complete silence at the magnificent experience. Each gift they brought was valuable and relevant. The presentation honored that one special person they traveled so far to see.
We’ll do that, too, this Christmas. Initially, we’ll remember the birth of Jesus– whether we do so at a Christmas Eve Mass, a church service on Christmas morning or if we do it homebound watching a spiritual message on TV. Then, what we do with the rest of the time (and the night before) will be the most telling.
I believe we’ll make the Good Lord very, very happy if we spend the remaining day and evening in the company of those we love - in person, online or on through phone calls; remembering and gifting with an open heart and celebrating each relationship. I also hope we’ll be doing it all, with love!