Following the Wise Men

Gift giving at Christmas is a wonderful tradition which comes to us from the wise men. They visited Jesus, and gave him gifts that honored and recognized him as king. When we give gifts to show our love and respect for each other, we follow their path.

Yet gift giving can be difficult–and not necessarily because we lack generosity. Sometimes it’s simply hard to know what to give. When so many of us are awash in material goods, it is a challenge because it seems everyone has everything.

At times our family has solved this dilemma by giving to charitable organizations the amount of money we would have otherwise spent on Christmas gifts. We give to meet significant physical needs–for food, for shelter, for health, for justice. Still there are times when we want to make a tangible expression of our love for others. What do we do then?

Books are a gift that says I care about the mind or heart of a friend or family member. Another guideline I have used is to give something that is unique or consumable. Because the consumable gift is used up, it does not add to our unnecessary accumulation of things. The unique gift may be something we make or is an expression of who we are.

I have a friend who writes poetry and gives his crafted words to friends and family. Framing your own photograph is another gift that could not be found anywhere else. Gifts can also be as simple as a fruit basket, a specialty coffee, letter stationary or even baked goods–which double as unique (not mass produced but handmade) and consumable.

The irony of a consumer society is that it diminishes the value of giving gifts. But it is possible to resist these forces, and at the same time, follow the wise men in a spirit of generosity and love.

Merry Christmas to all.