Once upon a time, three kings followed a star in the night sky in search of a newborn boy who was prophesised as the Son of God. With them, they bore gifts as an expression of their love and respect for the one who would come to be known as the Son of Man.
On this day, Christ was born. And so was Christmas.
More than 2,000 years later, this concept of giving gifts at Christmas first set by the three kings has prevailed, even if the true meaning of Christmas has been somewhat lost amongst the mountains of discarded wrapping paper and quick-fix presents.
From where has this pressure to give presents at Christmas come? From department stores with their glittering window displays and ‘Christmas Sales’? Money-hungry business people capitalising on the commercialisation of an ancient tradition held close to the hearts of many? From social norms, that say those who don’t give presents during Christmas are frowned upon as being thoughtless and uncaring? Whatever happened to ‘it’s the thought that counts’?
Before I go on, I should state that I am not a Scrooge and I certainly do not say ‘bah humbug’ whenever someone offers me Christmas cheer. I think Christmas brings out the best in people and today, even atheists will wish their friends and family a ‘Happy Christmas’ during this festive season. This is great, but do they know what they are saying? Do they know the meaning of Christmas? Whether we’re talking about the word or the holiday, you simply cannot have Christmas without Christ.
The very thing about Christmas is that it should be a time to remember Christ and give him thanks. The giving of gifts should be to express our love and respect for the people we hold dear. It is, after all, the season of giving. But let’s think about why we are giving the gift in the first place. Did you wander aimlessly around the shopping centre with a list of names, trying to find something – anything – that you could buy so in order to cross off another name on the list? This is not the meaning of giving. In essence, this type of present is nothing but gift-wrapped emptiness, devoid of meaning and emotion.
The best gift I have received this year was from my mother. She gave me a beautiful card with even more beautiful words inside. She said that she couldn’t think of anything to ‘buy’ for me that would bring me happiness; but she knew without a doubt what to ‘give’ me that would make me truly happy. She wrote in her card that her gift to me was that she would continue to meditate and devote herself to her prayers. She said she would give thanks to the Lord. She said she knew that this would please me more than anything else, and so this is what she was giving to me for Christmas.
What my mother gave me was something lasting. Something that was only for me and something that showed just how much she loves and cares for me. What my mother gave me made me happy, far more than a set of matching socks, a new alarm clock, or a new car. For Christmas, my mother gave me love.
There is nothing wrong with buying gifts for people at Christmastime. But ask yourself what the gift means – to you and to the person you are giving it to. The focus should not be on the gift, but on the expression of love and care for another human being that the gift represents. The gift doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate. But it must have meaning.
To each and all of my readers, my gift to you is this Gem. May you take just a few moments to ponder the question of what the people around you mean to you, and by doing so, may you give them a gift that truly matters this year.
Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and successful new year to you all.
Group Managing Director, QI Ltd