“The gifts of the most value are not material, but immaterial gifts of self, time, caring, serving, loving, nurturing, and forgiving,” writes Elder Michael A. Roberts, a leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, New Zealand. His Christmas message, titled, “Christmas – a focus on giving rather than getting,” follows:
At Christmas time we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Significant among the many traditions and customs that have been built up around Christmas are the giving and receiving of gifts.
Businesses have latched onto this particular aspect of Christmas as a way of promoting their wares. For several months from late October to the post-Christmas sales it seems as though the whole economy is driven by the promotion of material gift-giving. How often have we seen the excitement in a child’s eyes at receiving a gift on Christmas day which, a few days later lies broken and forgotten. While not wishing to deny children (young or old) the excitement of unwrapping Christmas presents nor to deny entrepreneurs their slice of the Christmas economic pie, is it the non-material gifts which should form the true focus of Christmas giving.
At a recent church service the speaker spoke about what gift Jesus would like to receive for Christmas. The answer can be found in the New Testament (Matthew 25:35-40) where He said, “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked and ye clothed me: I was sick and ye visited me: I was in prison and ye came unto me.” To the question, “when did we do all these things” he replied with the famous words, “inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
I have a friend who gives up her Christmas day every year to serve as a volunteer in the kitchens of the City Mission providing Christmas cheer to those who are on their own or cannot afford something special at Christmas. She finishes her day exhausted, but spiritually energised by the knowledge that she has brought joy and happiness to those whom she has served.
Those who have learned this lesson by experience will know that the afterglow of such immaterial giving lasts far longer and brings much greater joy than the trinket or bauble which is here today and broken, lost and forgotten tomorrow.
May the Christmas season remind us of the opportunities we have every day to reach out to those who need our care and attention – the sick, the elderly, the needy – and may we feel the inward glow that comes from such immaterial giving.Elder Michael A. Roberts