According to CNN writer Jacopo Prisco, good gift-giving is an art, because the perfect present can lift a mood or improve a relationship. It can repair a wrongdoing, or simply remind a loved one that you care. Psychologists have long been fascinated by the subject of gifting, because it’s a window into so many other important human traits: how we see others, how we assign value to things, our decision-making skills and our ability empathize. Christmas is such a great time to give and receive gifts, and of course we all enjoy giving and receiving presents. But according to Adrian Furnham Ph.D., professor of psychology at University College London and writer for Psychology Today, many people find the giving and receiving of gifts very difficult. He says that, “Gifts can be statements of influence, power, taste, sympathy, status, and emotion.” He points out that, “accepting a gift implies, to some extent, acceptance of the intent of the giver.” Unfortunately, Professor Furnham may be on to something. Some people do struggle with gifts they receive and read into those gifts the intent or lack of intent on the part of the giver. In the age of re-gifting, personalized online gift lists on Amazon, and reciprocal giving, the whole process seems to be loaded with potential pitfalls for the giver and receiver. That said, most of us still enjoy giving and receiving gifts with those we love, and I’m sure we will all participate this Christmas season.
Psychology aside, I believe that the greatest example of gift-giving is found in the Christmas story. It is about God’s gift of Jesus coming to earth to be the Savior of the world. Someone, not a psychologist, said this about the gift God offered the world through Christmas: “If the world had needed healing, God would have sent a Physician. If the world had needed knowledge, God would have sent an Educator. If the world had needed information, God would have sent a Scientist. If the world had needed money, God would have sent a Banker. But God knew that what the world needed was forgiveness, so God sent a Savior!” May I suggest that as you unwrap the presents this Christmas, not to forget that the greatest gift of the Christmas season is the gift of forgiveness.
We all have many needs in our lives, and some of those needs seem to be overwhelming at times, especially during the current circumstances surrounding the pandemic. Despite that, I am confident that the single most important need that any of us has, is to be forgiven. The reason I believe this is because every one of us has things in our lives we need to be forgiven for. We need forgiveness from God because of our sin. Sin is simply disobeying God, and it is a barrier that keeps us from experiencing the life and blessings God has for us. Since sin separates us from God, it is only through the mercy and grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that we can we receive the gift of forgiveness which makes us whole again and right with God. Without God’s gift of forgiveness there is no peace on earth and there will be no eternal life for anyone. Christmas should remind us that on that amazing night in Bethlehem, a child was born who would offer all of humanity the greatest gift of all. The baby Jesus would one day die on a cross, God in human flesh, to pay for our sins. He rose from the grave to prove He was God. That little baby, laid in a manger, was more than just a miracle birth, he was the one who would save people from their sins! He was Emmanuel: God with us! Jesus is the only one who can offer to you and me, the gift of forgiveness.
In my Christian life I have seen many people struggle in the area of forgiveness. Often, they can’t imagine how God could offer them such redemption. I don’t know the worst thing you might have done in your life or a dark moment from your past. But I do know that Jesus is able and willing to forgive you of all that you have ever done wrong. No one has gone so far away from God that he cannot reach out to you and forgive you. All you have to do is be willing to receive his forgiveness. It is like a Christmas present that is sitting under the tree waiting for you to unwrap. It is not a decision you need to struggle with, but just to receive. You and I needed a Savior! And that’s just what God sent to the earth. Matthew 1:20-21,”…and the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus is who we celebrate at Christmas. Don’t leave God’s gift of forgiveness under the tree! The greatest gift of Christmas is forgiveness!
Robert Andrews, Ph.D.