Sally: Dear Santa Claus, How have you been? Did you have a nice summer? How is your wife? I have been extra good this year, so I have a long list of presents that I want. Charlie Brown: Oh, brother. Sally: Please note the size and color of each item, and send as many as possible. If it seems too complicated, make it easy on yourself: just send money. How about tens and twenties? Charlie Brown: TENS AND TWENTIES? Oh, even my baby sister! Sally: All I want is what I... I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share! — A Charlie Brown Christmas

The average American spends about $800 on Christmas. It’s the most wonderful time of the year — at least for retailers. On November 1, Santas and mistletoe magically replace skeletons and pumpkins. Advertisers urge shoppers to find that perfect gift for the person who has everything. Parking lots become the stuff of nightmares, and stress levels rise in tandem with credit card bills.

All the while, Sally’s voice rings in our cynical ears: “All I want is what I... I have coming to me! All I want is my fair share!” Oh, brother.

Despite its commercial hype, at the heart of the so-called “Christmas spirit” is something beautiful. Giving is an act of lovingkindness, of thinking about others before ourselves. It takes time and preparation and yes, often, money. It’s a token of appreciation. True generosity means there’s no obligation in sight. And at Christmas, the act of giving points to the One who gave everything for us.

Jesus said it’s more blessed to give than to receive. In truth, we would much rather be givers than receivers. Ever been in a situation when someone has given a gift and you have nothing to offer in return? It’s humbling to accept a present, no strings attached. The act of receiving points to Christ’s ultimate gift to the world.

How has this sacred act of give-and-take turned into something so profane? Andy Steiger, director of Apologetics Canada, says it’s in our human nature to worship the creature rather than the Creator. Good things can easily morph into being dangerous and harmful when God is taken out of the equation.

This year, give and receive. Enjoy the season of celebratory generosity, for it’s at the very center of the gospel. But don’t let obligation corrupt your generous spirit. Don’t allow pride to get in the way of accepting good gifts from others. Rather, let your giving and receiving remind you of Jesus’ gift to the world, and worship him with all your heart.

Because that’s what Christmas is all about.

Photo Credit: Toa Heftiba