While cynics see the crass commercialism of the Christmas gift giving season, and the sentimental are drawn to the stories of Santa and the reindeer, or the manger with its shepherds and angels and wise men, there is a more primitive sense that goes to the reciprocal nature of gift giving. This sense comes from the multiple associations of the word ‘gift’. The substantive sense of ‘gift’ is ‘that which is given’, but in order for it to be meaningful it requires both a giver of the gift and one to whom the gift is given. This little word expresses the fundamental relationship that constellates the ground of human experience (and from a theological perspective the heart of the trinitarian nature of God as the lover, the beloved and the love that unites them.) At Christmas we share in this divine and generous reciprocity in our own funny ways and in varying degrees of ineptness by exchanging gifts.
Some find the particularity of the Gospel stories equally ludicrous and preposterous. But faith finds in them true stories of the One who gives the gift of Himself to the world, the expression of all that love can do while blessing the freedom of the beloved. No amount of pious sentimentality or snarky cynicism, yawning apathy or hostile opposition can obscure this beating heart at the core of Christmas. I hope that you find this gift in your life and treasure it above all else.