I have been thinking a lot about gifts this Christmas season. After all, that is the first thing many of us do once Thanksgiving comes to a close—frantically start looking for gifts to buy our loved ones. We spend the month of December shopping, buying, wrapping and often stressing.
Still, it feels good to receive gifts because it shows people love, care about, and appreciate us. It feels good giving gifts too, whether to our children, spouses, extended family, teachers or friends. Giving to the poor is also incredibly rewarding. Knowing you can help bring the necessities of life to someone helps you understand their struggles, learn to love them and realize just how blessed you really are.
Have you wondered why we give gifts at Christmas? In the past, I always attributed it to the three wise men who gave the young Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Some of us give gifts because that is what everyone talks about in December. That is what the stores tell us to do, and that is what kids expect Santa to bring.
Regardless of why we personally choose to give Christmas gifts, we put a lot of effort into making or buying them.
For some of us, we use the time leading up to Christmas as a way to scare our kids into being good. Do we ever tell our kids they will only get their gifts and Santa will only come if they are good? Do we tell them they have to earn their gifts—that they have to deserve them?
I'll admit I have often done this in the past, and it usually works, at least for a minute. I saw a quote once, though, that stopped me in my tracks. In essence it said we don't give gifts to our children because they deserve them but because we love them.
It pierced my heart to read that. Telling my kids they don't deserve gifts is like telling them they don't deserve my love.
Anything my kids do wrong, I probably do something else just as wrong. I am not any more deserving of their love than they are of mine, yet we love each other anyway.
What is even more humbling is even though you and I and everyone are imperfect and do things that aren't right, we are always loved by the greatest of us all.
"Your Heavenly Father loves you—each of you. That love never changes. It is not influenced by your appearance, by your possessions, or by the amount of money you have in your bank account," said religious leader Thomas Monson. "It is not changed by your talents and abilities. It is simply there. It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God's love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve love. It is simply always there."
And the Bible says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
So, why do we give gifts at Christmas? It isn't because of the wise men or Santa. It is because Heavenly Father gave us each His son. Jesus was the first Christmas gift.
We may go through some years when we can't afford to buy gifts for our children and other loved ones. This can be hard and sad, but the truest most everlasting joy and cheer comes from remembering that little baby who was born in a stable and laid in a manger.
That baby grew up to teach a higher law; set an example of love, forgiveness, hope, service and selflessness; suffer for the sins and pains of all mankind; die a painful death on the cross; and rise again glorious on the third day. Jesus lives in Heaven with His and our Father.
They love each of us unconditionally. They smile when we smile and weep when we weep. Jesus is always our friend. He knows how we feel. He wants to bless us. He wants us to come back to Him, and He has shown us how.
We may not always have tangible gifts tied with pretty paper and ribbons, but we will always have the gift of Jesus. He will bring us life if we follow Him.