The old saying “It’s better to give than receive” has the ring of sounding pious, and is one that we hear almost as often as “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” during this time of year. To challenge it surely means to become a modern day Scrooge, hellbent of taking Tiny Tim’s crutch for the sport of it. But challenge it we must. For within it lies the large lie of consumerism. It makes the exchange of gifts the point of the season, when it was originally about the presence of God with us and the glory of being with on and another.
In many ways the saying makes perfect fodder for a consumer culture bent on making us buy more. Indeed, so selfless sounding, the saying seems impervious to any critique since it is a binary comment, meaning its contradiction is embedded in the statement. Surely, to receive and not give defines the very nature of being self-centered. Yet every year we seem burdened by filling our out lists of presents to buy and wrap.
And our list seems to get longer every year. We also know we will get tons of stuff that we won’t need, as much as we give to other people to pile up into our storage units. The phenomena of regifting or giving something you got and did not particularly like to another person seems to have gotten worse as the years go by. Is Christmas only about giving and getting goods. Or is it about love?
The critique of the saying really comes from what Christmas commemorates for Christians. We say Jesus, who is God with Us, was born as a man and as the Gospel of John says, “The word was made Flesh and dwelt with us.” Yes, giving is better then receiving, but better yet, being with each other and dwelling with each other. When we stop the the shopping, and spend time together or dwell with each other, we open ourselves to something beyond the gifts and touch the gift of the divine presence of love. Funny how many of Christmas song tell not of shopping, but hanging out together.
So, yes I will give gifts to many people. I will receive gifts and be grateful for them, but it will be the time spent with my son, my wife, my family, my friends, and finding the face of Jesus within them that will make the season, and allows me to experience the fullness of the grace of Jesus Christ.
Christmas Love Poem
Love moves in words, both given
and received, gift wrapped with care.
Under the tree of life, words gather
to be opened. Love words packages
in pretty boxes of forgiveness
and top with bows and ribbons
of suffering with another, bring
lights to decorate the tree. Words
you say to me make my heart
jump up and down at the sight
of the star atop the tree of life.
The moments we share adorn
the tree and gleaming the glittering
realty of Emmanuel. God comes
for us in the Word making our words
gift to be place before those
people in our presence, which
are our real presents.
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- The Jesus Prayer in practice - January 19, 2017
- Stripping Jesus of Healthcare - January 13, 2017
- Glory be to the Materialism of Christmas - November 30, 2016