James Baldwin once wrote that while a child may never listen to his/her parents, he/she will always imitate them. And, let us never forget the old stand-by, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” It has also been wisely said that, “we never get to keep what we are unwilling to give away.”
Perhaps a combination of these three sage pieces of counsel would produce something that could provide the greatest gift we could ever give our family, loved ones and friends in this traditional season of giving.
Through example, we can encourage the greatest form of flattery – imitation. And what is it through this past year that we have given our children, our family, friends and associates to imitate. Has it been a spirit of understanding and compassion; of openness and love; of sharing? Or has it been one of denial, close mindedness and self-centered stinginess?
As to Jesus being the reason for the season, a quick glance at the headlines should make almost anyone wonder why we ever bother with the thought. We certainly don’t seem to pay much attention to it. IF “Jesus is the reason for the season,” I wonder whether or not He would like His name taken off the season based on the types of commemorations we have brought to it. From pagan symbols to drunken reveries, we observe the birth of a Child whose entire purpose in life was to give us the greatest gift of all – His love. For it was surely nothing less than His complete and boundless love for us that would have had him come into this dung heap we have created to satisfy our own lusts for everything from power to prestige.
We seem to always be so busy trying to get things we can then call our own that we never really get the time we need to enjoy them. While we are trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” we ignore almost all of the things that are important. We put both parents in the workplace so that we can buy things for our children who are ending up on drugs and in jail because we weren’t there to give them the one thing they needed all along – us. Then we spend all of the money we worked so hard to acquire in the first place to pay lawyers, therapists and others to fix the problems we created in the first place. Sounds like the monkey who stuck his hand in a hole in a tree to get a bit of food and then starved to death because he couldn’t get it back out of the hole, but he wouldn’t let go of it either. One would hope that we can be (even though we don’t act like it much of the time) more intelligent than the monkey.
So maybe we just need to give “it” all away. Whatever “it” may be in our lives. But, before jumping into this, you need to decide what you need in your life and that of your family. You need to decide whether or not all of the things you’ve been working and praying so hard for are really worth having. Once, you’ve taken that inventory and carefully examined your goals and priorities in your life, then it’s time for the “giving.” And you must be willing to give all of what you have in order to accomplish the goal of this exercise which is simply to get all of what you want.
It might help to point out that the “eternal money-chase,” is NOT an object. No matter how many men and women throughout history have compiled all of the money that anyone could ever want or need, not one of them has ever managed to take a cent of it with them into the next world. As one wise man once pointed out, “You’ll never see a Brink’s truck chasing a hearse.”
For it is only in giving that we receive. There is a universality in the thought that you never get to keep what you’re not willing to give away. Thus, if in this season of giving, you want love – give love. If you want friendship – give friendship. And, if you need more faith to free yourself of the doubt that this can be the best thing you’ve ever done – give more faith to the Source of all faith and possibilities.
So then, we might well say that the best gift we can give in this season of giving and commemoration is a combination of a Child’s heart, imitation and giving. For, if we find entering into another year as better, cleaner and more refreshed examples of what we can be in service of others, then this would seem to be a wonderful way to start. And it allows you to give the most precious gift you have to others – the gift of yourself, as the best you can be – as an imitation of that Child given to us two thousand years ago.
Remember that it was the Lord Himself who said, “Suffer unto Me the little children and forbid them not, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt.19:14) And never forget that you don’t have to be “childish” to be “child-like.” Reach into yourself this year and find once again the innocence and joy that was yours as the child you once were and can be again. It’s always much better to be one of “Christ’s kids” than one of the world’s adults.
For it was He who gave us all that He had to save us from ourselves. It is He who gave us the perfect imitation of His Father’s love and it is He who waits to give us more and more of His perfect gift of love as we give in return for our gift of love to Him. All in all, it’s the best gift we can get, and pass along to others.
Just something to think about.
Paul McShane of Carlsbad writes book reviews for the paper and has written his own book, That They Might Live, Slaying the Demon of Drugs.