Each year as Christmas approaches there are many mixed feelings. How soon and how much do we decorate? Stores are bringing out the Christmas items earlier and earlier, making Christmas the most commercialized holiday of the entire year. This may cause us to focus on giving bigger and better presents and trying to make sure our children don’t feel left out.
I love the book/movie Christmas with the Kranks by John Grisham where the main character adds up the amount that they spent last year on Christmas and decides they would save money by skipping it all for a cruise. While we are definitely not going to skip Christmas, our family has simplified our approach. During the past few years, we have decided to focus on the reason we celebrate Christmas. As the Apostle John testified: “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).
Seeking More Christlike Giving
There are many things that we can do to achieve this goal of simplifying Christmas. The December 14-20, 2020 Come, Follow Me lesson suggests: “family members could wrap gifts for each other that represent the ‘gifts of God’ mentioned in Moroni 10:9-16. These gifts could also represent other good gifts that come from Christ that they see in one another.”
Often, we don’t see the gifts we have in ourselves, but we are quick to observe them in others. What a great gift it would be to let our family see themselves as we see them and, more importantly, as our Father in Heaven sees them. Doctrine and Covenants 46:13-25 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-12 are some other great references of spiritual gifts.
As a family, we decided to take this suggestion one step further and be intentional in the gifts we give each other. As we do this, the hope is that Christmas will be a more Christlike experience.
President Henry B. Eyring shared a simple theory on gift giving that we can apply to our own lives: “When you’re on the receiving end, you will discover three things in great gift givers: (1) they felt what you felt and were touched, (2) they gave freely, and (3) they counted sacrifice a bargain” (“Gifts of Love,” [Brigham Young University devotional, Dec. 16, 1980]; speeches.byu.du). Now to apply these three steps to the Zuidhof family we talk about them in detail.
Have Empathy for Others
Step one. When the gift giver “felt what you felt and were touched,” this translates as being observant. In order to give a good gift, we need to know the receiver well. We need to know who they are and what they love. It can be as simple as seeing the desire in my child to be an artist. She would value simple art supplies more than an expensive phone. For the Zuidhof family, we start by considering the recipient and what is important to that person. We want to make them feel considered and understood.
Share without Expectation
Step two. When we give “freely,” we give without expectation of a reward or even a response. We can’t give that gift expecting something equally amazing in return. While this step seems simple, it may be the hardest step of all. We try to teach each other to find joy in gift giving. Just freely share what you have with others.
Sacrifice by Giving Gifts of Love
Step three. Counting “sacrifice a bargain” means that we will be giving up something: whether it is monetary, belongings, time, or love. The example referred to by President Eyring was receiving a jar of home-canned cherries. After the death of his mother, his aunt and uncle sacrificed their own enjoyment of those cherries and their time as they visited the home of President Eyring’s family. The return of that simple gift was the comfort, love, and happiness those cherries brought during that tender moment.
The other key part of this step is not to mention the sacrifice we make. King Benjamin clearly taught: “Are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment ... And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy ... And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right … O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another” (Mosiah 4:19-21). When we give gifts, we are simply sharing the blessings God has bestowed upon us.
In “Give a Gift of Love: A Christmas Message from the First Presidency to the Children of the World” (Friend, Dec. 1996), the First Presidency says it best, “as we give gifts of love, great joy will come into our lives.” As we give to others, we will receive more than we could even imagine in return. When we sacrifice something for someone else, we will have greater joy in their joy. Step three for the Zuidhof family is to give a part of your heart with each gift: sacrifice something for someone else.
There it is—the ultimate gift giving guide! Not like the world would expect, but when does the world’s way ever exceed God’s way? The gifts of God are greater than we can even imagine. We need to think about why we are celebrating Christmas. Heavenly Father gave us the greatest gift and sacrifice of all—His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
We don’t have to give up giving and receiving gifts. That’s not God’s way. Let’s make the gifts we do give mean something special.