Wednesday, December 22, 2004

This time of year is fraught with advice on gift giving, much of it negative and most of it commercial. What there is very little of is advice on gift receiving. As a society we have nearly forgotten our good manners when it comes to receiving gifts. In fact, the usual discussions about Christmas include some rueful, somewhat hostile comments about the terrible gifts some people give us. Such comments, and I have made a few of them myself, are contrary to the spirit of Christmas, which is, that of celebrating the great gift given to us in the person of a little baby, of humble origins, born in a stable, laid in a manger.

If we could approach each gift given to us in the way the Shepherds approached the Christ child we would all be better off for it. God gave us, not what the Jews asked for or expected, a warrior king, but a humble baby who grew up to repeatedly declare that His kingdom was not of THIS world.

It is an exercise, sometimes, when you receive a gift from someone who, you suspect, does not really feel any love or respect toward you but, nevertheless, feels obligated, to really feel any gratitude. It is a little less of a stretch to feel grateful for the gift from somenone who does mean it but just has no clue as to what you would really want. Still, there is something to be grateful for in each situation. The feeling of obligation that leads to the duty gift at least signifies just the tiniest amount of love, or at least like, or at least desire for relationship, with, who would suspect it, you.

Every gift is a hand outstretched in at least a modicum of friendship. Accept it, not in the spirit which was it was meant, but in the spirit of Christmas, being thankful for the gift which was sent because it was the gift we needed rather than the one we wanted.

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