Sunday, December 12, 2010

Giving With Joy

Christmas is the season to be jolly, forget about diets, drive around looking at lights, and stress about what we're going to get everyone on our ever-growing Christmas lists. Some of you are just starting the process of figuring out what to get everyone, some of you have been in the process for weeks or months and some of you are wondering why anyone would think about anything related to gift-giving before Christmas Eve.

Whatever your situation, I hope that the article this week can help you in some way to sift through the Santa Claus degree of Christmas and find the other two deeper degrees that your Christmas may be merry and bright.

In the December 1982 Ensign President Henry B. Eyring wrote an article entitled, "Giving With Joy," in which he taught, "what matters in giving is what the receiver feels." His "theory on giving a great gift" as he calls it involves three parts which he illustrates with a story of a gift given to his family by his Uncle Bill and Aunt Catherine when his mother passed away.

Wrote President Eyring:

First, I knew that Uncle Bill and Aunt Catherine had felt what I was feeling and had been touched.

Second, I felt that the gift was free. I knew Uncle Bill and Aunt Catherine had chosen freely to bring a gift. They weren’t doing it to compel a response from me; the gift seemed to provide them joy in the giving.

And third, there was an element of sacrifice. Someone might say, “But how could they give for the joy of it and yet make sacrifice?” Well, I could see the sacrifice.

I like the focus on the giver of the gift. The effectiveness of the gift his family received wasn't the actual gift itself, in this case a bottle of cherries, but the manner and attitude in which it was given made the gift effective. He continued:

Now, it won’t be easy to use this theory to make great strides in our gift-giving this Christmas. It will take some practice, more than one holiday, to learn how to be touched by what’s inside others. And giving freely and counting sacrifice as joy, will take a while. But we could at least start this Christmas being a good receiver. We have the power to make others great gift-givers by what we notice. We can make any gift better by what we choose to see—and we can, by failing to notice, make any gift a failure. Gift giving takes a giver and a receiver. I hope no one uses this theory to criticize the gifts and giving that come his way this year, but to see how often his heart is understood and how often gifts are given joyfully, even with sacrifice.

Our attitude and the manner in which we receive gifts can have a great effect on the spirit of gift-giving.

Now on another, deeper note President Eyring taught: 

If that warms you as it does me, you may well want to give a gift to the Savior. But he seems to have everything, doesn’t he? Well, not quite. He doesn’t have all of us with him again, forever—not yet. I hope we are touched enough by the feelings of his heart to sense how much he wants to know each of us is coming home to him. We can’t give that gift to him in one day, or in one Christmas. But we could show him today that we are on the way.

If we have already done that, there is still something left to give. All around us are people he loves, and he wants to help them—through us.

One of the sure signs of a person who has accepted the gift of the Savior’s atonement is a willingness to give. The process of cleansing our lives seems to make us more sensitive, more generous, more pleased to share what means so much to us.

And so what shall we do to appreciate and give a merry Christmas? “Freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matt. 10:8.)

As we go about our gift-giving during this wonderful season, think about what would make the best gifts. Think about those to whom you are giving gifts and strive to understand what would bless their lives the most. Get in the true spirit of the season, for the Savior taught, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

We can all show the Savior that we have accepted His ultimate gift as we reach out to those around us with His love. Be mindful of those in need, of those to whom He would pay extra special attention if He were here--those to whom He needs us to pay special attention because He is not here.

May your Christmas season be filled with the perfect gift-giving and receiving.