The Purpose of a Present

     Though we do not consider Christmas to be a religious observance we do enjoy many of the traditions that have developed around this time of year. The kids get excited about Santa Claus and what might be left under the tree. I had not been preaching very long when I heard Guy N. Woods. He preached brief lessons but always had a question and answer period at the end of the service. Someone asked him about Christmas with the idea that perhaps kids shouldn’t be encouraged to “believe in Santa.” Woods had an answer that I still remember that had to do with allowing children to have their fantasies and that such a use of their imagination was a proper part of their intellectual development. I agree with his assessment. The realities of life will crowd into the lives of children soon enough.

     And of course, some of us older folks get excited about presents at Christmas time. I’m a bad giver of presents because I can never wait for the proper day to give the gift. As soon as I get the present I hunt down the recipient. Then I end up getting something else for them as the day gets closer. It’s a never ending cycle, and a little costly. Ha! But I will admit that it is still fun for an old guy like me to open a present.

     As we get older we become more impressed with the truth that it is better to give presents than to receive them. We have that principle from Paul’s quotation of Jesus in Acts 20:35, though in a context that blended the material and spiritual elements of a gift. Paul was meeting with the elders of the church at Ephesus. They had enjoyed a good relationship, so much so that Paul encouraged them to support the weak following his example of supporting himself and others.

That passage, “…remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” helps us to see the purpose of a present. That purpose changes over time as the person receiving the present matures. Little children love their toys and the things they like to collect. They are learning about their world though these things. I’ve seen kids in the third world play with an old tire with as much joy as Lucy does with her Littlest Pet Shop toys.

     As we get older we still like our stuff, but as we go along we see more of the love in the gift, don’t we?
And that is why it is more blessed to give than to receive. As we grow spiritually life gets to be more about loving than being loved. The greatest love was and is God’s love for us (John 3:16). So it is that we come to learn that the purpose of any present is to show our love.