"Christmas means giving. The Father gave His Son, and the Son gave His life. Without giving there is no true Christmas . . . “ (Gordon B. Hinckley)
I love that quote and believe it. I look forward to giving Christmas gifts each year. But, no matter how much time, thought and effort any of us put into giving, it would be of no value if there were no one to receive the gift.
“For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.” (D&C 88:33)
Just as important as being a good gift giver, I believe, is learning to be a good gift receiver.
A short time ago, my husband and I delivered a birthday present to a friend. I had made cinnamon rolls and we placed them in a box along with individual bottles of juice and chocolate milk, as well as all the paper products, party favors, and decorations needed to have an official family “Birthday Party Breakfast”. When we arrived at our friend’s home and gave him the gift he was extremely gracious. He expressed his delight for the cinnamon rolls, commented on how fun it was to get a gift “with a theme” and showed excitement for everything in the box. The next morning he sent a text telling us how delicious the breakfast was and the following day he once again thanked us for thinking of him and expressed his appreciation. This friend is truly a great gift receiver.
I know many other people who are also great gift receivers. Unfortunately I also know people who struggle receiving gifts, and I myself have on occasion fallen into this category. In thinking about what makes a great gift receiver, I have thought of three main qualities.
1. Humility. I know people who are simply uncomfortable being the center of attention and so resist any display of love or affection by others in the form of gifts. Other times it may be a bit humiliating to realize someone has noted our need and provided something for us we were not able to do for ourselves.
An example of this occurred when my husband and I were newlyweds. The ward was hosting a Christmas party and charging $10.00 per couple. (Back then they could do this.) We did not have the money to purchase the tickets and therefore were not planning to attend. However, the bishop, aware of our need, secured tickets for us and left them in an envelope on our front porch. At first we were embarrassed at our poverty and did not want to go. Then we felt perhaps we should find the money to purchase them ourselves. But in the end we humbled ourselves and put away our feelings of embarrassment, attended the party and thanked the bishop for the blessing.
Being a good gift receiver means putting aside our own feelings of pride and discomfort and being humble enough to focus on the feelings of the giver.
2. Charity. Often the value we place on a gift is determined by the love we have for the giver. If we value the giver, we will most likely value the gift. Learning to be a good gift receiver, therefore, includes developing a gift of love for those who give.
3. Gratitude. I learned an important lesson about gratitude when I was nine. My family drew names for Christmas each year and that year my sister had my name. One day I discovered the Christmas gift she had purchased for me—large hair clips. I was a bit disappointed in getting hair clips for Christmas and expressed my feelings to her. Her response was, “Then I won’t give them to you.” And she didn’t. She didn’t get me anything else either. That Christmas morning when everyone else opened their family gifts, I was wishing very much I had just been grateful for the hair clips and I was ashamed of my selfishness.
I have often heard people say, “But that isn’t what I wanted” or “I don’t want anything so don’t give me anything”. I have learned that it isn’t always about what we want, it is also about what the giver wants to give. Our job is to learn to be grateful for what we are given.
I think it is also important to learn to see beyond the gift and appreciate the time and effort that may have gone into preparing the gift itself. I am reminded of a story of a man who walked many miles to the seashore to get a sea shell. In giving the gift he told the receiver that the long walk was part of the gift. Gratitude entails not only being grateful for the gift itself, but also recognizing the time and effort made to prepare the gift.
I hope this Christmas Season we can all not only be good gift givers, but also good gift receivers. Because the greatest gift ever given was the birth, life and atoning sacrifice of our Lord, Jesus Christ. And His is a gift that only benefits us if we are willing to receive it. May we always receive His gift with humility, love and appreciation, for receiving the gift of His life into our hearts is what will truly bring . . . joy to our journey.