I seldom ask a child or a young person what they want for Christmas. Instead, I ask them, “What are you giving your mother for Christmas?” I am interested in their reaction. Many are quite taken aback and most don’t know how to reply for the simple reason that they have been so caught up in what they want for Christmas that they really haven’t given much thought to what they can give someone else.
Back in the early sixties BYU produced a short film entitled, “The Gift.” It is about a young boy living on a farm during the depression years. Every cold, winter morning his father rousts him out of bed to help with the chores. Every morning the boy grudgingly crawls out from under his warm quilts and makes his way reluctantly to the barn where he helps his father shovel out the manure, spread new straw, feed and milk the cows and then carry the heavy containers of milk to where they will be picked up by the dairy wagon.
As Christmas approaches the boy wonders what gift he can give his father. He searches through the Sears & Roebuck catalogue but about all he can afford is a tie and that just doesn’t seem to be enough for his Dad. Then he overhears his father say that he seldom, if ever, gets to be there when the children come downstairs to open their presents on Christmas morning because he is always out in the barn doing the chores. The boy smiles, because now he knows what he will give.
Early on Christmas morning he watches the clock from the warmth of his covering of quilts. When the clock’s hands show 3:00 a.m. he climbs out, dresses quietly and makes his way downstairs, crunches through the frozen crust of snow and out to the barn where he carefully does all the chores before making his way quickly back to bed. When his father peeks through the door and turns on the light to awaken the boy, the boy grumbles and asks if he can’t sleep in just this once. The father replies that the chores have to be done even on Christmas morning and tells him to hurry up and meet him in the barn.
Much to the father’s amazement, when he gets to the barn he discovers new straw on the floor, feed in the mangers, and the cans all lined up on the dock full of newly produced warm milk. As the father watches the younger children come down the stairs to open the presents under the tree, he gives his smiling son a warm hug and says “this is the best Christmas gift I have ever received.”
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, at a recent Christmas devotional said, “Isn’t one of the great joys of Christmas seeing the excited faces of little children as they take in their hands a wrapped gift that is just for them?” He went on to say, “As we get older, however, our ability to receive gifts with the same enthusiasm and grace seems to diminish. Sometimes people even get to the point where they can’t receive a gift or, for that matter, even a compliment without embarrassment or feelings of indebtedness.
“They mistakenly think that the only acceptable way to respond to receiving a gift is by giving back something of even greater value. Others simply fail to see the significance of a gift—focusing only on its outward appearance or its value and ignoring the deep meaning it has to the sincere giver. I wonder,” he said, “if sometimes we disregard or even disparage the importance of being a good receiver.”
What if that father, on that cold Christmas morning, had complained that his son had left something undone or that he had failed to do some needful thing?
Elder Uchtdorf went on to say, “This Christmas season and always, I pray that we will see the marvelous gift of the birth of the Son of God through the blessed eyes of a child. I pray that in addition to giving good gifts, we will strive to become good and grateful receivers. As we do so, the spirit of this season will enlarge our hearts and expand our joy beyond measure.” (Church News, the week of December 9, 2012)
And when we think of giving gifts, may we keep in mind that, after all is said and done, the best things in life aren’t things.