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Northern Days Gone By: Oh, you shouldn’t have

When Christmas Eve was upon us our family gathered to celebrate with a meal. We exchanged gifts before eating. Often, as the gifts were exchanged, someone would exclaim, “Oh, you shouldn’t have.” This troubles me even now as I think about it. Why shouldn’t we give another person a gift?

Was the gift too great an expense for the giver? Or, did the receiver fear that the gift given in exchange by them was not up to the same level, expense wise? Did it make the receiver feel obligated to purchase an equally expensive gift? Is there some unspoken rule that moves a person to give a gift in exchange of equal or greater monetary value? Have we been reduced to measuring all things by money rather than genuine love?

Several years ago a mail order company had gifts you could buy and put near the front door. It was about $7.50, and it was wrapped. Often it contained some candy. It was suggested you should keep this at hand for the emergency when you received an unexpected gift. Do we feel guilty receiving unexpected gifts and give nothing in return?

Maybe many of us have been raised with the admonition, “It is more blessed to give than receive.” Perhaps we desire to act in a more blessed manner and not be selfish receivers.  I wonder!  Maybe we are afraid of appearing selfish. Maybe we feel our religious roots as we affirm, “It is more blessed to give than receive.” Something feels wrong in this cultural “truth.”

I will now reverse this statement. Maybe a more loving statement is that “It is more blessed to receive than give.” What? To receive a gift makes the giver feel that they have something to share with you and you are pleased. Receiving a gift from another makes it clear that you are honored to receive their gift as well as them, that the giver has something of value they wish to share with you.

To receive a gift from someone is to honor the giver! Perhaps it is a huge mistake to tell a child they don’t have to give you anything. Saying this may make them feel that they are worthless. Think back to how many of us as children were honored by our mothers. Remember how they thanked us for any gift we gave them? It made us feel good about ourselves and appreciated. We felt her love for us. How many little cards we colored to give to mom? How many little boxes of candy did we give to grandma? Receiving gifts from us affirmed our worth. They honored us. Maybe you were like me shopping in the drug store, attracted to the blue glass bottle of perfume, “Evening in Paris.” We gave it to our mother. She thanked us with a hug and maybe even a kiss, and she splashed it on. And she did not say, “You shouldn’t have.” She said “Thank you. I really appreciate this, and it smells so nice.”

Through all this we should have learned to be gracious receivers, to always thank others for their thoughtfulness regardless of monetary costs. We should not diminish others by refusing their gift or not using it. Remember mom splashing on “Evening in Paris.” If she had said, “You shouldn’t have,” It might have made us feel insignificant and too poor to give a gift that was really appreciated.

This Christmas may we remember to thank others as they give us a gift. it may be a fact that it is more blessed to receive than to give.

Something I think about often.

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