presents and presence and presents

Dec 20, 2011

presents and presence and presents

God presented His son to the world over two millennia ago. We celebrate Christmas to celebrate His birth, His life, His death, and His presence in our lives. At least I do. I join with millions of Christians around the world to remember His words, spread His love, and rejoice in His saving power. I love Jesus. I am so grateful to know of Him and to have the privilege of knowing Him.

I have pondered the world’s celebration of Christmas, the “true meaning” of Christmas, and my personal celebration and how it all fits together. I have come to realize that while presents are not at all essential to my celebration, I DO love giving them and I enjoy getting them as well. As I have pondered this and wondered whether we should ban presents all together so we can focus completely on Christ, I have had some insights come to me.

As a family, we focus on Christ all month long. We have a nightly Christmas devotional where we share a story from Jesus’ life, sing Christmas songs, and read a Christmas book. We focus on service to others and love to do things in secret to brighten other people’s lives. We celebrate Hanukkah and retell the miracle of the light in the temple, the courage of the freedom fighters, and God’s goodness and mercy to His children. We love to remember the redemption of Ebeneezer Scrooge and the possible redemption in our own lives. In short, we have a full month of focus on Christ, His gospel, and striving to be His hands in the lives of others.

But, I also love giving my children presents. It can’t be just any present, can’t be a present just to give a present. I cannot stand those types of presents. It must be a present straight from my heart that shows that I know them, their needs, their secret desires, their goals, their dreams. A present that wraps them up in my love and tells them “My mom knows the inner workings of my heart.” A present that helps them fulfill their mission here on earth. I don’t give glitzy toys or the latest fad thing. I want my presents to have meaning.

Isn’t that what the wise men did for Jesus? They gave Him presents befitting His Kingship and which would aid Him in His life and His escape to Egypt. Isn’t that what Jesus does for us? We are told in James 1:17

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

In The Doctrine and Covenants 14:7 it says,

And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.

God blesses us with a perfect knowledge of our hearts, the comfort that will sustain us, the power and grace of the atonement which saves us from spiritual death, and the resurrection that saves us from physical death. He knows what we need and He meets those needs.

But He doesn’t stop there. He also knows the desires of our hearts and he often blesses us with those things. I cannot tell you the number of times I have wanted a certain book, piece of fabric, pair of shoes, or on a deeper level, a relationship or experience, and been prompted to go somewhere or do something and the thing I desire is right there in front of me. None of those things were NEEDS per se, but they were desires and by giving them to me, He teaches me who He is, how much He loves me, and how intimately He knows me.

I want my children to have a microcosm of that experience when I give them gifts. I want them to feel known. To know they are treasured. To have the assurance that I will help them and love them. To know they can trust me.

Presents are certainly not the only way to accomplish these things, but they are one way to build a relationship with their hearts and to point them towards the giver of all good gifts. With this goal in mind, we decided long ago to give our children three gifts for Christmas, represented by the gold, frankincense, and myrrh of the Wise Men. Gold is a gift of something they will treasure and has value to their lives. Often this gift is something I have made for them…like their skirts last year or the deluxe colored pencil holders from 2009. Frankincense is an oil that was used in worshiping in the temple, it was burned before the Holy of Holies. Our frankincense gift is something that will aid them in their relationship with God. It is something that will help them learn of Him, connect with Him, or enable them to serve Him. Myrrh is an oil that was used to heal from sickness and to embalm the dead. It preserves things makes them last longer. Our myrrh gift is something that will aid them in their mission that God has placed them on earth to fulfill. It is something that will develop their gifts or further their education, something that will help their influence last longer, go further.

This gift-giving plan has helped me to focus in on their hearts and be mindful of what each gift should be. It adds a depth and richness to my gift-giving. It forces me to ponder who my children are and how I can best help them become who they were created to be.

I am grateful for His presence in my life, for the presents He gives to me daily, for His presentation on this earth as a baby, for His eventual presence here when He will rule as the King of Kings, and for the opportunity I have to teach my children who they are and who He is by the gifts I give to them.

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  1. What a beautiful tradition! I love it. :-)

  2. Michelle

    What a beautiful way to meld the traditions of Christmas with the true reason for it. We hope you have a wonderful Christmas, Tracy!

  3. Anne

    Absolutely beautiful and peaceful! I loved reading this, both times! Thank you so much for putting your thoughts and feelings together to meet us here with this!

  4. Anne

    Just read it again this morning! I wish I were more like you. I’m afraid I’m all about just giving. Sorry.

  5. You are such an inspiration. I love the present part of Christmas and try to be really thoughtful about what I give my children too. I love your plan and how it focuses your gift search.